Cape Town cricket lovers welcomed the return of fans to the traditional New Year’s Test for the first time since the Covid-19 virus struck back in 2020 with great anticipation this week, but ultimately it proved to be a major disaster both on and off the field.
The Proteas slumped to a seven-wicket defeat to allow the world’s number one-ranked India team to level the series at 1-1. But the match also went down as the shortest Test match in history having lasted only 642 balls – the equivalent of 107 overs – using just one-and-a-half days.
The Proteas’ first-innings total of 55 all out on the first day was also their lowest total since readmission back in 1991.
Furthermore, the Newlands patrons saw 23 wickets fall on the opening day – a feat that has not occurred since 1890 in Melbourne.
Proteas opening batter Aiden Markram battled on the second day, though, with a marvellous 106 off 103 balls to set the tourists a 79-run target.
But India captain Rohit Sharma ensured there would be no further collapses as he shepherded his team to their first Test win in Cape Town.
However, it was not just the Proteas that suffered a heavy loss.
The Western Province Cricket Association, who are already under severe financial pressure and required a financial bailout from Cricket South Africa to host the New Year’s Test, will now face an extensive review.
Interim WPCA general manager Corrie van Zyl was not able to provide the exact impact the loss of three-and-a-half days would have on the embattled union financially, but admitted it was “hugely disappointing”.
“We obviously planned for five days of cricket. It is hugely disappointing from that perspective, particularly for the fans, and we need to go back and look at the reasons why it happened,” Van Zyl said.
“We need to be objective about the reasons. We can’t just blame individuals. As far as the financial implications, I can’t tell you what it is. What you lose on the one side, you gain on the other side.
“I feel sorry for everyone involved, like the security guys, who now won’t get a further three days’ payment. They are the ones that have really lost here.”
Newlands head curator Braam Mong has come under fierce criticism for the pitch that was provided for the marquee Test of the summer.
Proteas batting coach Ashwell Prince claimed he has “never seen a Newlands pitch like this before”, while head coach Shukri Conrad stated it is a “sad state when you need more luck than skill. All the ethics and values of Test cricket goes out the window.”
Newlands’ food vendors were less diplomatic, laying the blame squarely at the door of Mong as they suffered heavy financial losses.
“We prepare for at least three days of Test cricket. I buy in stock beforehand and I don’t have another outlet that I can send the stock to,” said small business owner Adlee Waggie.
“It works out to be close to R60 000 in losses and it’s our only international game for the summer.”
Western Province Cricket Club, which houses the Members Section at Newlands and a number of private suites, also stated their losses were substantial.
“In order for us to break even we require three days of 75% capacity.
But the Test was badly attended by the Members. We only had 60-65% capacity on the first day and 40% on the second day. That equates to significant loss,” said WPCC manager John Vicars.