Johannesburg – South Africa might reap bitter rewards from sporty first-class pitches and bowler-dominated Sunfoil Series matches, former Proteas player Boeta Dippenaar warned on Tuesday.
Dippenaar, who represented South Africa in 38 Tests and 107 One-Day Internationals, was critical of the pitches prepared for the domestic four-day matches.
He said too many games in the 2012/2013 season ended within three days.
“Ideally, a top-order batsman must learn to occupy the crease for a day-and-a-half to prepare for the rigours of Test cricket,” Dippenaar said.
“And bowlers must learn to capture wickets on pitches that are not conducive to seam bowling. I spoke to Piet Botha the other day and he told me that the Chevrolet Warriors spent just eight-and-a-half days in the field in four first-class games.
“That is a concern. Ideally, top-class first-class cricket should finish after tea on the fourth day.”
With the current state of first-class wickets, bowlers could get a false and skewed impression of their real ability, while the self-belief of top-class batsmen would be eroded, warned Dippenaar.
Three Sunfoil Series games were washed out during the past season, while 14 of the other 27 games did not reach the fourth day, said Andrew Samson, official statistician of Cricket SA.
According to the statistics, only three batsmen – Stiaan van Zyl (61.18), Alistair Gray (51.90) and Neil McKenzie (51.73) – averaged more than 50 during the bowler-dominated Sunfoil Series in 2012/2013.
Kyle Abbott (49 wickets), Johann Louw (45) and Andrew Birch (40) all captured 40 wickets or more.
The Cape Cobras regained the four-day series trophy after a dog-fight with the Highveld Lions at the top of the log in January and February.
Lance Klusener, the Dolphins coach and a South African ODI legend, said the quality of the local domestic competition was on a par, or even superior to, the English county circuit.
One of the stand-out features of the season was that most teams were attacking and very few games ended in a dreary stale-mate.
The positive approach adopted by most teams contributed to a hard-fought and tough competition.
Cape Cobras coach Paul Adams said the series had been a tough and competitive, characterised by “spicy” wickets and low scores.
Adams, a former SA Test player, added that the first-class game was a more-than-adequate production line of future international stars.
Highveld Lions coach Geoffrey Toyana concurred, pointing to the rise of Faf du Plessis in the Proteas' ranks.
“He made a seamless transition from first-class cricket, representing the Nashua Titans in 2011/2012, to international Test cricket in 2012/2013,” Toyana said.
“And he excelled in his first few Tests for South Africa. In fact, he did not struggle to adapt at all.
“Chris Morris is another case-in-point. If Chris was selected to make his test debut for South Africa tomorrow, he wouldn't disgrace himself.” – Sapa