PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA - DECEMBER 15, Shaun Pollock and Robin Jackman during day 1 of the 1st Sunfoil Test match between South Africa and Sri Lanka at Supersport Park on December 15, 2011 in Pretoria, South Africa Photo by Lee Warren / Gallo Images
PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA - DECEMBER 15, Shaun Pollock and Robin Jackman during day 1 of the 1st Sunfoil Test match between South Africa and Sri Lanka at Supersport Park on December 15, 2011 in Pretoria, South Africa Photo by Lee Warren / Gallo Images

Pollock makes a strong pitch

By Patrick Compton Time of article published Dec 21, 2011

Share this article:

Former Proteas great Shaun Pollock is concerned that the current seamer-friendly conditions are not helping to develop the South African Test team for the challenges that lie ahead over the next 12 months, and that Cricket South Africa's quality control governing pitch conditions has been found wanting.

"I understand that we haven't won our last four home series and that winning breeds confidence, but I'm more concerned with us honing the skills we will surely need over the next year," Pollock said as the countdown to the second Test against Sri Lanka at Kingsmead on Boxing Day continued.

It's certainly been a rock-'n-roll summer in South Africa so far, with pace bowlers capturing 83 of the 100 wickets to fall in the three Test matches against Australia and Sri Lanka.

That high strike-rate for the quicks is hardly surprising given the greentops that the groundsmen have been creating. Pace bowlers dominated the first Test against Australia at Newlands and the first Test against Sri Lanka at Centurion, with both matches lasting just two-and-a-half days. The former resulted in the quick men grabbing 31 of the 32 wickets to fall, while pace accounted for 25 of the 30 wickets to go down at Centurion.

Pace has nearly always been South Africa's bowling strength - off-spinner Hugh Tayfield is one of the few exceptions to this rule - so it's hardly a shock that it has accounted for most of the wickets to have fallen this season.

Pollock's point, however, is that South Africa are one of the top three countries in world cricket and that it is not necessary, or appropriate, to create conditions that so obviously suit their strengths.

"In the last Test, for example, it would have been interesting to see how we would have fared if we had had to face the current England attack of Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad, Chris Tremlett and Tim Bresnan, or even the Aussie pace attack of earlier in the summer," said Pollock.

Pollock modestly ignored his own attributes in this assessment, but there's no doubt that if he had consistently bowled in the kind of conditions that have prevailed this summer, his South African record tally of 421 wickets at 23.12 in 108 Tests would have been greater.

Pollock said that he was surprised that CSA hadn't commented on the state of the pitches. "I think CSA could, and should, have said that these kind of surfaces were not what they were looking for in Test pitches in this country."

He added: "Obviously, I'm not criticising the team, they simply have to play in the conditions put before them, but I don't believe these conditions help with the development of our cricketers."

Pollock has consistently argued that good Test pitches should have pace and bounce, but that they shouldn't be seaming around from first ball to last, as also happened recently at Hobart in the second Test between Australia and New Zealand. "It's fine to have some early seam movement, but then the pitch should quieten down," Pollock said.

According to Pollock, South Africa's first-innings total of 400-plus at Centurion had deflected attention away from the pitch. Although he was impressed with the way the Proteas batsmen went about their work, the weakened Sri Lankan attack made life much easier for them.

"When South Africa travel abroad, they sometimes play on 'bunsons' or greentops in countries like Sri Lanka and New Zealand. You can understand that because these guys are often scrapping it out towards the bottom of the Test-playing log and they are simply trying to be as competitive as possible in their home conditions," he said.

"But as a South African supporter, I feel that we can compete with the best teams in the world on quality Test surfaces.

"We've always set high cricketing standards in terms of our pitches and facilities, and I would like to see that maintained going forward."

"I'd like us to reach the summit of Test cricket again next year and if we are to achieve that we'll have to play on very different, high quality surfaces in England and Australia," Pollock said. - Cape Times

Share this article: