PAARL – Boland Cricket chief executive James Fortuin has assured the Proteas that Boland Park will serve up the best wicket of the series, after Dale Steyn was critical of the pitch used in the second ODI against Zimbabwe on Wednesday in Bloemfontein.
The Proteas slumped to 103/7 on a surface that experienced variable bounce throughout at The Mangaung Oval, 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 actual 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 ones 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,” 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 w 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 20’s, close to 30 degrees, so we are expecting a lovely day out in Paarl with the Proteas.”