Groundsmen – damned if you do and damned if you don’t!

We South Africans are so fickle, are we not?

When the Proteas toured India in 2015, playing four Test matches in November and December, South Africans were up in arms about the pitches that had been prepared by the Indian groundsmen – more than likely at the bequest of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

The Proteas lost the series 3-0 in conditions that resembled dust bowls. Had the second Test not been washed out then the Proteas would have more than likely gone down 4-0.

Such was the nature of the tracks prepared that the spin duo of Ravichandran Ashwin (31) and Ravindra Jadeja (23) picked up 54 of the 69 wickets to fall, with Ashwin opening the bowling no less than five times out of South Africa’s seven innings.

With India visiting the South African shores early in 2018, it was touted that their South African counterparts would prepare wickets conducive to pace, bounce and movement – green mambas so to speak.

India even prepared for this eventuality as they tried to prepare fast tracks themselves in their home series against Sri Lanka at the end of 2017.

Evan Flint was berated by the ICC for preparing a below-par pitch while the South African camp were extremely delighted by conditions with certain media corners giving Flint the unofficial man of the match award.The first Test at Newlands in Cape Town seemed to hold water with this prediction as South Africa, batting first, found themselves 12-3, finally posting 286 in their first innings. India in reply were bowled out for 209 before both sides being bundled out for under 140 in their second innings as South Africa won by 72 runs.

The Highveld grounds of Supersport Park and the Wanderers was to be hard, fast with steep bounce and movement but Bryan Bloy at the Centurion ground has come in for some steep criticism.

Ashwin bowled 38.5 overs on day one, 16 overs more than Jasprit Bumrah (22) and Ishant Sharma (22) and claimed 4-113.Former Proteas captain, Graeme Smith tweeted at the end of the first day’s play: “A spinner bowling 31 overs on day 1 in South Africa is a joke in my opinion, groundsmen needs to be asked a lot of questions! #SAvsIndia

Virat Kohli became the first batsmen to register a ton in the series, scoring 153 of his side’s 307 first innings runs to leave the visitors just 28 runs short on SA’s first innings total of 335.

But with Lungi Ngidi, on his debut, claiming 2-14 to leave the Indians on 35-3 at stumps on day four in pursuit of 287 for victory, and with Kohli back in the hut, fans and pundits alike are looking at South Africa pushing for victory to seal the 3-match series with a game to spare.

Watch out Bethuel Buthelezi – your turn is next! Best you run for the hills!So where does that leave Bloy? Still in the firing line if SA win? Yes this is not a normal Centurion pitch, as home-boy Ngidi stated but perhaps people should reserve their judgement until the result has been obtained before lambasting the people who work so hard in preparing a surface that is capable of holding out for five days of cricket while presenting a good contest between bat and ball.

Watch out Bethuel Buthelezi – your turn is next! Best you run for the hills!

Author: Brendon

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