Mystery awaits August tests

TMG Digital


TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

NEITHER the Dolphins nor the Titans have played a first-class match at home in August since the franchise era started in 2004-05, a significant fact in the context of New Zealand’s tour to SA next month.

The Kiwis will play SA in tests at Kingsmead and Centurion between August 19 and 31. What will the pitches be like considering winter’s grip, while loosened, will still be felt? There is little to answer that question.

First-class cricket has been played at Kingsmead since 1923. Not one of the 388 games there have been staged in August.

Of the 168 first-class matches hosted at Centurion, one is relevant in this case. It was played from August 22 to 25 in 1997, and it featured SA’s and New Zealand’s academy teams.

“It was one of those brown games, before they had fancy stuff to dolly up the grass,” Grant Morgan, the SA Academy’s wicketkeeper in that match, said. “There was some tennis ball bounce and the ball kept slightly low and gripped.”

David Terbrugge’s 3/36 was the best return in a New Zealand first innings of 242 in which Andrew Penn, batting at No. 8, scored 70 off 138 balls.

The South Africans slumped to 19/3 before Nicky Boje and Andrew Hall put on 65. Hall scored 59 off 85 and left-arm fast bowler David Sewell, who would play his only test against Zimbabwe in Bulawayo a month later, took 6/40 in a total of 201.

Matthew Bell and Llorne Howell made half-centuries as New Zealand set the home side a target of 333.

They were dismissed for 185 with Daniel Vettori taking 5/45, but not before Nicky Boje scored a century. He was unbeaten on 105.

What did Morgan, who played 25 of his 52 first-class matches at Centurion, think the conditions might be like there next month?

“Centurion has had variable bounce over the past few years with the ball shooting on days four and five,” he said.

“Whether that will be exacerbated by the lack of rain, I’m not sure. It could be, with less carry and faster deterioration of the bounce.”

In other words, closer to a New Zealand than a South African surface.

But Kingsmead, where Morgan is based these days as the Dolphins’ coach, should be closer to the truth.

The outfield has been aerated and the nets, Morgan said, looked in decent shape. And the weather hasn’t been bad.

“What Durbanites call cold, people like me who’ve lived around the country laugh at,” he said.

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