A member of Newlands’ groundstaff attends to a hitch on the pitch.
Grant Pitcher/Gallo Images
- Proteas legend AB de Villiers has gone against prevailing sentiment in believing the contentious Newlands wicket in the second Test between the Proteas and India was “stock-standard”.
- Instead, he notes that Newlands surfaces are invariably tricky to bat on and that many of the batters failed to take into account a minor technical tweak that could’ve made life easier for them.
- De Villiers is more disappointed in the fact that there wasn’t a deciding third Test between the sides.
- For more, please visit News24 Sport’s home page.
“It was a pretty stock-standard wicket.”
Those words will be music to Braam Mong’s ears following a week where Newlands’ part-time pitch curator has been hammered on many fronts for conjuring up a perceived shocker of a wicket in the second Test between the Proteas and India.
The match lasted one-and-a-half days, with the 642 deliveries that were sent down representing the shortest Test match in terms of balls bowled in history.
Eye-catchingly, that it was a standard pitch is the measured opinion of none other than Proteas legend AB de Villiers, who very reasonably noted the surface wasn’t exactly out of character with previous incarnations.
“It was a pretty stock-standard wicket, in my opinion. I remember jumping around there on day one when I played there at times,” he said on his Youtube channel.
“If you can just get through the first session on day one, it gets a lot easier [in general]. You could see the players who weren’t just trying to hang around, the guys who were playing their shots and being positive, they were doing well.
“I remember Ben Stokes scoring a double-hundred there. I scored some hundreds there. You can’t allow bowlers like Vernon Philander, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, Kagiso Rabada to keep bowling on off stump.”
Naturally, no player exemplified the right balance between attack and defence than Aiden Markram, who made a mesmerizing, run-a-ball century in what has been hailed as his best innings in Test cricket to date.
De Villiers also argued that the Proteas opener overcame a technical deficiency that hampered most of his teammates on that wicket.
“Aiden played attacking cricket, getting down the wicket and batting on off-stump,” he said.
“I always found batting out of my crease on off-stump worked wonders at Newlands because you’re taking the bowled and LBW dismissals out of play.
“Leaving outside off is also easier then because you know anything outside or away from your eye-line is probably not going to hit the stumps.
“A lot of dismissals were edges in that game, which suggests the batters didn’t force the bowlers to be straighter. When you can start frustrating them and they drag their lengths down, then you can cut and pull.
“It looked a tricky wicket, but there was some pretty poor batting at times and great bowling. I’m not criticising the batters, it’s just that SA’s order was inexperienced and couldn’t have made a few tweaks.”
READ | Newlands groundsman ‘not in the firing line’ after Test shocker – Cricket SA
Mindset is vital, too.
“Newlands is one of those wickets where you always feel a certain delivery is going to get you out. I remember having to save a Test there once (against Australia in 2014) so I just defended a lot outside off,” said De Villiers.
“Yet it still didn’t really matter because there’s always a delivery with your name on it on that surface. That’s just the way it is.”
Instead, De Villiers’ relative ire is reserved for the powers-that-be that failed to ensure a deciding third Test between the sides.
“I’m very upset at the fact that we didn’t get a third Test. You can blame T20 cricket around the world, the ICC and the scheduling, but I don’t really know who or what is exactly the culprit,” he said.
“All I know is something is not right. If you want to see more Test cricket, things are going to have to change.
“There will be enough cricket between Australia, India and England, I can tell you that. But if you want all the playing nations playing and to see who’s the best, something will have to change.
“Let’s see what they come up with. They know they are under pressure.”