Cape Town - Don’t judge a book by its cover. Or as is the case in New Zealand be wary of the overtly green surfaces, says Proteas bowling coach Charl Langeveldt.
Pitches in the land of the long white cloud have become notorious in recent times with many on social media branding it “Welcome to Wimbledon” in reference to it resembling the famously manicured lawns of London’s famous tennis tournament. But Langeveldt believes all this hype is often deceptive and has warned his bowling unit ahead of the first Test against the Black Caps at the Hagley Oval in Christchurch on Thursday not to get too excited.
“It can be misleading,” Langeveldt said on Monday. “That’s how New Zealand wickets are. It looks green, and probably with the new ball it does swing and seam a bit, but then it gets easier once the ball gets old.
“We spoke long and hard about it when we got here. The discussion was about getting used to the overcast conditions too. When the sun is out, it is a bit easier. The ball doesn’t swing and nip. The grass colour does change, but we will focus on bowling a bit fuller. We are usually 6-8 metres with the new ball, but here we’ll be about 51/2-6. But then I’ve always said the guys need to adapt. We need to make them play with the new ball. It is all about being adaptable.”
It will certainly be a testing examination for the Proteas’ seam-bowling unit that have precious little experience in New Zealand conditions. Only Kagiso Rabada has played there before with Lungi Ngidi, Duanne Olivier and Marco Jansen all on their first tour.
The Proteas are also customary slow starters, as was witnessed in the first Test against India when the visitors capitalised on some wayward bowling to push their total to 272/3 on the first day before Rabada and Co. adjusted their lengths. India added just 54 more runs for the loss of their last seven wickets when play resumed, although the advantage was already with Virat Kohli’s side who went on to claim a 1-0 lead.
South Africa’s seamers found their rhythm in the remaining two Tests at the Wanderers and Newlands to produce a memorable come-from-behind 2-1 series victory, but with this only being a two-Test series in New Zealand they need to hit the ground running immediately.
Langeveldt, though, is confident his charges will be game ready, especially after having their first taste of the Hagley Oval conditions on Monday since being discharged from a 10-day quarantine period.
The former Proteas swing-bowler was particularly impressed with Jansen during the workout, with the rookie seemingly buoyed by his recent R8.5 million Indian Premier League deal with the Sunrisers Hyderabad.
“He (Jansen) is looking good. He is bowling that fuller length, hitting the stumps. For someone that tall he actually hits the stumps quite a lot,” Langeveldt said.
“He also has that aggressive side, as we saw with that (Jasprit) Bumrah incident. I term it “white-line” fever because he’s the most laid back guy off the field, but when he gets on it he is very aggressive. He is bowling well, swinging the ball, and straightening it off the seam.
“He is actually very mature in a cricketing sense. His cricket brain is very good. He’s very knowledgeable and he adapts quickly. He is a good listener and asks good questions.”