JOHANNESBURG – The Wanderers is not exactly the fortress the Proteas would like it to be, nor many visitors would expect it to be for the home team.
That’s not to say the Proteas struggle at the Bullring, but it’s not a venue where success has been as easy to achieve as at SuperSport Park or Newlands.
And yet the Wanderers historically has all the elements the Proteas desire - pace and bounce in the pitch, a quick outfield and a partisan crowd.
Despite last season’s terrible mishap against India, which saw the Wanderers docked demerit points by the International Cricket Council for preparing what it described as a “dangerous” pitch for the final Test, the Wanderers has generally produced a surface with lots of pace and bounce, which evens out on days three and four to assist strokeplay and then breaks up on day five when matches have reached that stage.
But it’s been touring teams who’ve adjusted to conditions better than the hosts. In the last eight Tests there, South Africa have won four, lost three and memorably played out a draw against India in 2013.
The overall record is not something to make Pakistan quiver either; South Africa have a 42 percent win record in Tests at the Bullring in the post-isolation era, much lower than SuperSport Park (83%) and Newlands (70%).
However, unlike their subcontinent neighbours India, who haven’t lost at the Wanderers in five Tests, Pakistan have been beaten two out of three times they’ve played there. In 1995 they lost by 324 runs with Fanie de Villiers picking up a ten-for, and five years ago Dale Steyn’s inspired burst on the second morning saw them rattled out for 49, the Proteas spearhead famously taking 6/8 in 8.1 overs in the first innings and 5/52 in the second as South Africa won by 211 runs.
Unlike the pitches at Newlands and SuperSport Park, which caused plenty of controversy, the Wanderers is expected to be as per normal for Friday’s start with pace and bounce.
“I’m very happy with how the pitch’s preparation has gone,” Central Gauteng Lions (formerly the Gauteng Cricket Board) chief executive Greg Fredericks said yesterday.
How many will come to watch is a bigger concern for Fredericks and the CGL. Test cricket has not been a big attraction for Gauteng audiences in recent seasons and Fredericks described sales for the third Test as being “disappointing”.
Even with the Australia Test last season, held over the Easter weekend, crowds were relatively sparse, and it is only on weekends when the kind of raucous atmosphere that gave the venue its moniker is generated.
By comparison, sales for the “Pink ODI” that takes place there later this month have been rapid.
Tickets for the Test match are available through ticketpros.co.za and start from R60.@shockerhess