SA pitches threat to Proteas?

2010-10-18 10:46
Cricket pitch (File)
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Potchefstroom – It is difficult to imagine that South Africa aspire to notably batting-friendly surfaces when top-ranked India visit for the main, Test-series business of the 2010/11 local summer.

That would almost certainly play into the hands of India’s star-studded batting line-up, so well versed in the art of playing huge innings on benign Subcontinental surfaces which also greatly aid the cause of spinners.

Once the likes of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Jacques Kallis are back in the fray from injury, the Proteas’ pace attack will automatically regain a high degree of menace after struggling at times to be truly penetrative in the MTN one-day internationals against Zimbabwe.

Given that the cream of South Africa’s own batsmen are capable of prospering against the Indian seamers even if the Test pitches are reasonably lively, it is hard to envisage home plans revolving around featherbeds – especially as batsmen from the Subcontinent tend not to look so smart when the ball is whistling around the ears.

The Proteas revel most in home Tests when their speedsters are able to “bully” the opposition into defeat, as happened on a spicy Wanderers surface at the end of last season; they emphatically levelled the series against England with a huge, testosterone-fuelled victory.

But will conditions like that be possible against India, especially as the “Bullring” is not on the Test roster for the India series this time?

There is mounting evidence that the character of our strips countrywide is changing, and making life more of a toil for the quicker men.

National captain Graeme Smith acknowledged as much to Sport24 on Sunday, after lowly Zimbabwe had amassed another score well in excess of 250 despite still being clobbered with 11 overs to spare at Senwes Park here.

He made the valid point that “you pretty much know what you’re going to get” for ODIs, where the accent is always on decent batting tracks for the required instant entertainment value.

But he did concede that South African pitches in general do seem to be suffering through overuse.

“Yes, it probably has to do with the amount of cricket being played on our wickets; winter breaks have not been as long with IPL activity (into the autumn, two seasons ago) and things like the Champions League which meant an early start last summer.

“So the wickets are a bit more worn. It’s good that our domestic batsmen are getting a bit more work against spin and it’s also good for our spinners that they’re getting a bit of purchase.

“But of course we’d still like to see the ball go through a bit (quicker) in South Africa.”

The first nine matches of the SuperSport Series thus far bear out what Smith was saying about spinners suddenly becoming big factors in the country.

Six of the 13 five-wicket hauls recorded up to now have been registered by them, with Dolphins leg-spinner Imran Tahir also the leading wicket-taker by a margin of seven from Cape Cobras seamer Vernon Philander.

He boasts 23 scalps at 20.43, including three “five-fors” on his own. The others have gone (one each) to incumbent Proteas left-arm spinner Paul Harris of the Lions, Claude Henderson (Cobras) and Thandi Tshabalala (Knights).


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