Is Centurion really lucky for proteas?

KICKER: : Russell Domingo during the Proteas squad announcement press conference at Long Room, Bidvest Wanderers Stadium on September 10, 2013 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo: Duif du Toit/Gallo Images
KICKER: : Russell Domingo during the Proteas squad announcement press conference at Long Room, Bidvest Wanderers Stadium on September 10, 2013 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo: Duif du Toit/Gallo Images

IT'S a rare question to the unvarnished Russell Domingo that produces an answer both straight and skew, but this one did: why are the Proteas so successful at Centurion?

"I don't know," Domingo said. That was the straight bit.

"Maybe the nature of the wicket has changed in the past few years. It's a lot more like Durban now. And, no, I also can't explain why we're not that successful in Durban."

Which was where things went skew.

Centurion, where SA begin their series against Australia on Wednesday, has hosted 18 tests. SA has won 14 of them and drawn three. Whether their sole loss there - the contrived "Leather Jacket Test" against England in January 2000 - should be considered a defeat anywhere outside of the record books is debatable.

Of the 21 tests at Kingsmead since readmission, SA have won nine, drawn six and lost the other six. Bad light, rain and a pitch that seems to sink lower and slower with each passing summer are its modern hallmarks.

All of which takes us away from answering the original question.

Instead of steering us back to sensibility, Paul Harris offered an intriguing view: "I don't buy into the myth that SA will win if the wicket is bouncy. We play better when it's slower and it seams a bit. We play our best cricket when the wicket doesn't suit us."

For evidence, he offered the results of SA's matches against India in December. At the faster Wanderers, they were under pressure and drew. At Kingsmead, they won.

Steve Smith and Peter Siddle said this week they were expecting "pitches something like the WACA or the Gabba in this series".

The WACA bounces prodigiously. The Gabba swings around corners.

Centurion used to be fast and furious. In recent years, it has mellowed. It is where Jacques Kallis broke his hoodoo of never having scored a test double century, and where Dale Steyn broke Craig Cumming's face.

It is the place from where Andre Nel sped down the highway, police escort and all, after a day's play in a test to get to the church on time to be married. It is where Herschelle Gibbs called Pakistan supporters a "f*@&%* bunch of "f*@&%* animals".

That's a lot of drama for 18 tests, but Centurion wears it well on its unadorned concrete and low-slung grass banks.

However, the Australians were not convinced of the ground's charms this week after struggling to tell the difference between the outfield and the pitch table. They could have any colour they liked, as long as it was green.

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