Cape Town - Out of the frying pan and ...
well, perhaps not quite into the fire.
After the rare thrill of seeing some of
Australia and South Africa’s premier pacemen going head to head on a properly
swift WACA track on Sunday – it had unexpectedly quickened up from the first
contest – the teams can expect to come down a gear or two when the one-day
international series moves to the middle contest at Canberra’s Manuka Oval on
Wednesday (again 05:20 SA time).
Hostilities are locked at 1-1 going to the
Australian capital city, sometimes mocked for its perceived sleepiness – the
pitch may show some of that characteristic, too, or at least be less
challenging for the batsmen than the fast and bouncy Perth predecessor.
Manuka will be virgin territory for most or
perhaps even all of the Proteas’ squad, and certainly as far as
international-level activity is concerned.
The ground has only staged three prior ODIs
– never before a Test or Twenty20 international – and South Africa featured in
the maiden match back at the 1992 World Cup, when they comfortably beat
neighbours Zimbabwe by seven wickets.
Brian McMillan grabbed three for 30 as
Zimbabwe were bundled out for 163, and then Kepler Wessels (70) and Peter
Kirsten (62 not out) made pretty short work of the target.
Ace stroke-player Kirsten, now 59 and a bit
beyond his own heyday even then (though he had a brilliant World Cup), has some
recollections: “Look, it obviously may have changed a good bit in 22 years, but
I recall it as a typically good Australian wicket,” he told Sport24.
“We actually played two games there because
there was also a warm-up against Pakistan – it is more sedate than your
Brisbane or particularly Perth-type track, but it came on nicely and was very
‘battable’; once you got in you could score briskly.
“I’m guessing it’ll be the kind of
environment where you bat first if you can, treat about 260 as par score and if
you’ve got some partnerships going, even look to push on a fair bit beyond
“The place must be just a bit receptive to
turn, too, because I think I picked up a couple in ’92 with my (part-time
Kirsten remembers correctly: he bagged
three for 31 against the Zimbabweans, snaring Dave Houghton, Andy Waller and
The last ODI at Manuka Oval was in February
2013 – Australia’s only previous appearance at the ground thus far – when the
hosts beat West Indies by 39 runs in a high-scoring duel.
The Aussies posted 329 for seven (Shane
Watson 122) and the underdogs replied with a spirited 290 (Darren Bravo 86).
Noticeably, outright pacemen struggled: the
Windies’ Kemar Roach travelled for 72 runs in nine overs whilst Aussie
thunderbolt Mitchell Johnson went for 59 in his own nine overs with one wicket
to his name.
Johnson has been rested for the remaining
three ODIs against the Proteas, in preparation for the looming home Test series
against India, although the slippery young Pat Cummins has been added to the
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