JOHANNESBURG - Only Marlon Aronstam (in conjunction with Hansie Cronje) and Mitchell Johnson have been able to beat South Africa in Test matches at SuperSport Park.
Rain on two occasions and Graham Onions on another, stopped South Africa beating England. Otherwise South Africa usually win in Centurion, doing so 17 times in 22 Tests.
The Proteas enjoy SuperSport Park, venue for the second Test against India and its surrounds. Unlike Newlands, where Evan Flint, had to prepare the surface to the home team’s needs while working around the numerous challenges resulting from the drought in the Western Cape, Bryan Bloy, SuperSport Park’s groundsman, has had normal weather on the Highveld.
There was a heatwave last weekend, but cooler temperatures in the days leading up to Saturday’s Test, should ensure he gets the surface matching the Proteas’ demands.
The long-term forecast for the duration of the match is for extremely hot weather on the weekend - temperatures are expected in the low 30°C for the first three days - which may impact on how much grass is left on the surface.
Usually, Centurion can be a touch slow on the first day, but as the sun beats down the pitch hardens, gets quicker and is a wonderful venue for shotmaking and quick bowling. With that much heat being forecast, the pitch should break up bringing variable bounce into the equation and the possibility that spinners may have a role to play.
Paul Harris is the most successful spinner there with 13 wickets in four Tests, but it is a venue where the seamers dominate. Dale Steyn, out for the remainder of the Indian series with a severely bruised heel, is unsurprisingly the most successful bowler at SuperSport Park with 56 wickets in nine Tests, while Makhaya Ntini has claimed 54 in 10 matches.
Kagiso Rabada, newly promoted to the world’s No 1 Test bowler, also recorded his career-best figures there against England two seasons ago, picking up 13/144 in the fourth Test of that series.
However, SuperSport Park hasn’t been a minefield for batsmen; Jacques Kallis and Hashim Amla have scored double hundreds there - Herschelle Gibbs came within eight runs of 200 there too - while AB de Villiers set the record for the fastest Test century by a South African, taking just 75 balls against India in 2010.
The overwhelming majority of teams winning the toss at Centurion choose to field; 15 times in 22 Tests, emerging victorious six times, losing six, while there were the three draws against England.
The look of the surface will have a major bearing then, on the make up of the two teams. The South Africans, of course, have to make at least one change given Steyn’s injury, and if coach Ottis Gibson is to be believed, it will be another quick bowler as a replacement.
Lungi Ngidi has two training sessions to convince Gibson that he is capable of making a Test debut at his home ground.
Given Gibson’s preference to use South Africa’s “physicality in terms of our pace,” - unless Ngidi has two awesome training sessions - it will come down to one of Chris Morris and Andile Phehlukwayo.
While the former is capable of touching speeds in excess of 140km/* , Phehlukwayo, while 10km per hour slower through the air, offers more control and at least has played more than just T20 cricket in the last few months, which is all that Morris has played since returning from a back injury.