Proteas hope Paarl pitches up

Diamond Fields Advertiser - - SPORT - ZAAHIER ADAMS CRICKET WRITER

PROTEAS speed­ster Dale Steyn is hop­ing the pitch for the third ODI against Zim­babwe in Paarl is con­ducive to good cricket.

The Proteas slumped to 103/7 on a sur­face that ex­pe­ri­enced vari­able bounce through­out at The Man­gaung Oval in Bloem­fontein be­fore Steyn res­ur­rected the home team’s in­nings with a ca­reer-best 60. It en­abled South Africa to post 198 be­fore Im­ran Tahir’s 6/28 – which in­cluded a hat-trick – sealed the se­ries for the Proteas.

But with the Proteas’ in­ter­est in this se­ries vested more in prepa­ra­tion and iden­ti­fy­ing play­ers for next year’s World

Cup, par­tic­u­larly in the bat­ting depart­ment, than the re­sults, the sur­faces utilised for the first two matches have not been ideal.

“The wicket wasn’t the best. I have been around, and seen a few pitches. I think it started off with Reeza’s (Hen­dricks) one, where it didn’t bounce, and then you see the one that goes through the top and hits the splice of the bat. It is not quite a wicket that you want to be play­ing cricket on,” Steyn said af­ter the 120-run vic­tory in Bloem­fontein.

“I am not re­ally a grounds­man, but I have played a lot of cricket in Bloem and I haven’t seen so many plates on it be­fore, which kind of gives you the im­pres­sion that if there is one loose plate, it won’t bounce, and if it hits a solid plate it will take off. I thought Kim­ber­ley was poor, and we thought it would get bet­ter com­ing to Bloem. But we are hop­ing Paarl, is go­ing to be the best one.”

There is a rea­son for op­ti­mism that the Boland Park pitch will be bet­ter suited to free-scor­ing. Although the pic­turesque winelands ground has in the past been crit­i­cised for its pitch too, the sur­face has im­proved im­mea­sur­ably over the last few years with the Proteas post­ing a ground-record to­tal of 353/6 against Bangladesh last year. The Boland Park faith­ful were roy­ally en­ter­tained by a re­turn­ing AB de Vil­liers, who smashed a ca­reer-best 176 not out off 121 balls (15x4, 7x6).

“We have spent plenty of time on the pitch, and lots of runs are ex­pected,” Boland Cricket chief ex­ec­u­tive James For­tuin told In­de­pen­dent Me­dia. “We are used to big matches and the wicket looks good. We will have a proper one-day wicket. I can’t com­ment on the other ground, but there’ll be run-fest here.”

For­tuin has also em­pha­sised that the out­field has im­proved since last year when the drought in Cape Town se­verely af­fected it.

“It is look­ing beau­ti­ful,” he said. “We ac­knowl­edged the crit­i­cism of last sea­son and have done some­thing about it. The is­sue the last time was that we had scar­ifed the out­field which was nec­es­sary man­age­ment that we had to do. And then we had a dry winter, which served up those chal­lenges, plus if you re­mem­ber it rained the day be­fore creat­ing the per­fect storm. But Sat­ur­day is go­ing to be high 20s, close to 30 de­grees, so we are ex­pect­ing a lovely day out in Paarl with the Proteas.”

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