Change of pace for Proteas

2014-11-17 15:07
Peter Kirsten (Gallo Images)
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 that.

“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 off-spin).”

Kirsten remembers correctly: he bagged three for 31 against the Zimbabweans, snaring Dave Houghton, Andy Waller and Ali Shah.

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 Australian squad.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  rob houwing  |  cricket

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