Proteas

Morkel baffled by Indian-like Centurion strip

2018-01-15 20:30
Morne Morkel (Gallo)

Centurion - With the second Test between the Proteas and India now three days in, it is clearer than ever that the hosts are not impressed with the strip that groundsman Bryan Bloy has given them. 

Indian off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin bowled 31 overs on day one, opened the bowling for his side on day three and even South Africa tossed the new ball to Keshav Maharaj when they had one over to bowl before lunch on day two in India's first innings. 

Outside of this wicket making Ashwin a major threat to the South African batsmen, it has also severely limited the impact the Proteas had hoped their fast bowlers would have on this potentially series-deciding fixture. 

Captain Faf du Plessis wanted a wicket with pace and bounce, yet more than half way through this Test, he has not had either of those. 

Instead, the seamers have had to toil. 

Morne Morkel was the pick of the Proteas bowlers in India's first innings, finishing with 4/60, but he said after the day's play that it was one of the toughest spells he had ever bowled in his Test career. 

More than that, Morkel likened this Centurion strip to a wicket he would expect to find in India ... and we all know what happened the last time the Proteas were in India. 

"It's unheard of that a spinner bowls that many overs in the first day," Morkel said.

"We even had the option of opening with a spinner in that over before lunch.

"It has a very sub-continent feel to it: tough scoring, tough to get people out. It’s definitely not the sort of conditions we want here in South Africa this week."

That is about as clear as it gets. 

If South Africa do go on to lose this Test match, then there is no doubt that the conditions will be a major talking point in the aftermath. 

But when a guy who has spent his entire professional career at the venue for this Test claims that he cannot recognise the wicket and that it is foreign to him, then it is easy to see why this strip has commanded so much attention.

"I’ve played cricket here all my life and I’ve never seen a wicket like this at SuperSport Park," Morkel said.

"It was really hard work in the heat with conditions incredibly tough. It’s right up there with one of the hardest spells I’ve ever bowled.

"You’ve got a small window with the new ball and in the first hour in the morning it is a bit quicker off the deck. But after that there is no pace in the wicket, especially from the Pavilion End where I find it very much a tennis ball bounce.

"It’s important with ball in hand to come up with different gameplans, but from a bowling point of view it is definitely not the ideal surface."

All Bloy can hope for now is a Proteas victory to soften the blow. 

It is almost inconceivable, but the most nervous man going into day four of this Test match is probably not a cricket player. 

South Africa will start day four on 90/2, 118 runs ahead of India. 

Read more on:    proteas  |  morne morkel  |  centurion  |  cricket
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Sunday, 18 February 2018
South Africa v India, Johannesburg 14:30
Wednesday, 21 February 2018
South Africa v India, Centurion 18:00
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South Africa v India, Cape Town 18:00
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