Hobart a mystery for SA

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TELFORD VICE, Hobart

RUSSELL Domingo has compared the conditions at Bellerive Oval, where Australia and South Africa clash in the second test on Saturday, to what players could expect to encounter in New Zealand – and geography is in his corner.

The WACA in Perth, where the first test ended on Monday in victory runs for South Africa by 177, is 4129 kilometres to the west of Tasmania’s capital.

Dunedin on New Zealand’s south island is a comparatively mere 1864 kilometres to Hobart’s east.

Well might South Africa’s coach want to describe Hobart in terms his players might understand: they have never played a test there.

South Africa have played five one-day internationals at the ground, starting in December 1993, and current squad members Hashim Amla and JP Duminy are among the stalwarts of those games. So are Neil McKenzie and Charl Langeveldt, the batting and bowling coaches.

So, what can the South Africans expect on Saturday?

“This wicket suits bowlers on overcast days and flattens out on sunny days,” Joe Mennie, the fast bowler who played for the Hobart Hurricanes in this year’s Big Bash T20 league and who is likely to make his test debut on Saturday, said on Wednesday.

“There is a bit of nip off the pitch if you are prepared to put your back into it.”

That makes the Bellerive pitch sound like every other surface in the game, which is good news for the South Africans – they are unlikely to be caught out if the conditions are indeed bog standard.

South African left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj was also intent on hedging his bets about the conditions.

“We’ll have to have a look at the wicket first but I don’t think it will be much different to Perth,” he said on Wednesday.

“Maybe a bit quicker. Or perhaps a bit slow.”

But he was certain of his role as a slow bowler in a place where pace predominates.

“Australia’s not known as a country where the ball turns a lot so I’m just going to stick to my gameplan and hopefully that’s more than enough to help the team,” he said.

It was in the first test, where Maharaj did a vital holding job after Dale Steyn was forced out with a fractured shoulder.

Compared to Perth, Hobart promises to pose different challengers for all involved.

The temperature in Australia’s coldest city has yet to reach 20 degrees Celsius this week but has veered into single figures, and up to 40 millimetres of rain have been predicted for Saturday. More downpours are forecast for Sunday and Monday.

The locals talk abut snow falling on Mount Wellington, which towers over Hobart, three weeks ago.

“I reckon we could see snow at this test,” one of them said on Wednesday.

If that happens, there’ll be a lot more nip in the air than off the pitch.

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