Picture: 123RF/RICHARD THOMAS
Picture: 123RF/RICHARD THOMAS

With pitches taking centre stage‚ Gauteng Cricket Board CEO Greg Fredericks gave assurances the Wanderers surface would be without demons for Friday’s Test against Pakistan, writes Khanyiso Tshwaku.

SA’s premier cricket ground came under intense scrutiny because of its pitch during the third Test against India in early 2018. The pitch had offered lavish seam movement through all four days and more importantly‚ inflicted serious physical damage on the batsmen because of inconsistent and excessively steep bounce.

The Test against India ended in four days, but on the third evening play was curtailed 19 minutes early because of the dangers posed by the strip.

The pitch was given a poor rating and earned three demerit points from the International Cricket Council (ICC).

The ground avoided an immediate ban but the three demerit points will linger for the next four years.

Should the ground accrue another two demerit points in the 48 months‚ it will be banned from hosting international cricket for a year.

However‚ the surfaces prepared for subsequent T20s and ODIs against India and the fourth Test against Australia at the end of March/early April behaved in a normal manner.

“It’ll be a normal pitch but people tend to forget that after the India Test where we gave the guys the pitch they asked for‚ the pitch that was prepared for the Australia Test had no issues.

“But people can expect a normal pitch for Friday’s Test‚” Fredericks said. “We ’ve taken note of what Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur has said but we’ve got no worries and no sleepless nights.

“We ’ll be having a pitch that’ll be lasting for five days. It’s going to be a wicket that’s going to be fair to batsmen and bowlers.”

The pitches used at SuperSport Park and Newlands for the first two matches have been criticised by Arthur.

They offered a fair amount of movement‚ challenging both sets of batsmen. But the bounce has been disconcerting.

While the SuperSport Park pitch was graded average by the ICC ‚ the highest team score was SA’s first innings total of 223 while Shan Masood’s 65 was the highest individual score.

The Newlands surface gave the Pakistan batsmen grief on day one where they were rolled for 177 just before tea‚ but SA also had their struggles where the ball often misbehaved on a good length.

However‚ S A’s first innings total of 431 contained a Faf du Plessis ton and 50s from Aiden Markram‚ Temba Bavuma and Quinton de Kock.

Fredericks‚ though‚ has the comfort of knowing the Wanderers pitch square has been on the good side this season. The Highveld Lions’ three home four-day Franchise Series games at the ground have all produced results while bat and ball were equally rewarded.

In the Mzansi Super League‚ 170 was crossed in four of the six possible games there‚ including the tournament’s highest team total.

“After last year‚ we decided that our guys will prepare the kind of pitches they want to prepare. We’ve had no instruction from anybody.