SA’s methods brought into question following series-clinching victory over Pakistan

South African captain Faf du Plessis celebrates reaching his century during day 2 of the 2nd Castle Lager Test match between South Africa and Pakistan at PPC Newlands on January 04, 2019 in Cape Town, South Africa.
South African captain Faf du Plessis celebrates reaching his century during day 2 of the 2nd Castle Lager Test match between South Africa and Pakistan at PPC Newlands on January 04, 2019 in Cape Town, South Africa.
Image: Shaun Roy/Gallo Images

South Africa has established a proud record of seven straight Test series wins on home soil but their methods have been brought into question following their series clinching victory here over Pakistan.

They duly knocked off the winning runs early on day four of the second Test but the uncharacteristically feisty nature of wicket has had tongues wagging.

Batsmen have been routinely hit‚ even off a decent length in this Test match and as early as the close on the second day Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur declared the wickets in Centurion and Cape Town unfit for Test cricket.

South Africa won inside three days in Centurion and this match barely made it into a fourth day as the batsmen were put under the pump.

Arthur complained that compared to his time in charge of South Africa between 2006 and 2010‚ the pitches now seemed far more ‘inconsistent’ in its bounce and were too ‘bowler friendly’.

The reality‚ however‚ is bowler friendly wickets around the world have increasingly helped shorten Test cricket over the last five years.

Tests played world wide between 2008 and 2013 produced results inside three days in 20 out of 212 matches.

In Tests played between 2013 and 2018‚ 41 out of 270 finished before it reached the fourth day.

In South Africa four out of 19 Tests between 2008 and 2013 drew a similar premature conclusion‚ while the period between 2013 and 2018 yielded six out of 33 Tests.

The global figure has just about doubled‚ while the percentage of real premature conclusions has in fact held steady in South Africa.

What is indubitably true‚ however‚ is that Test batsmen are finding it increasingly tougher to bat in South Africa.

With South Africa’s impressive pace attack it stands to reason captain Faf du Plessis and coach Ottis Gibson would ask groundsmen for pace and bounce.

“We never ever ask for ridiculous pitches‚" countered Du Plessis.

"We just ask for pitches with a bit of pace and bounce. When there is a bit of seam movement and pace and bounce you have to adapt your game.

“It is still possible to score runs.

"When you travel and you expect flat pitches‚ it doesn’t happen anymore. Cricket is not the way it used to be like four‚ five years ago when 400 and 500 runs are being scored. Now for the first time in a while it has happened in Australia because the ball wasn’t swinging.

"It is going straight. The pitches are flat and they are scoring runs.

“Here the ball does move. We have seamer friendly pitches. The pace of the game has moved a lot quicker.

"Batsmen are not just batting at 2.2 or 2.3 per over. Test matches are moving so quickly. As a player you have to move with it.”

Du Plessis tried to explain why the impression now exists that South Africa increasingly rely on inconsistent wickets to get the job done on home soil.

“We speak about it more openly‚ more than in the past‚" he said.

"We are open and honest about it. Our question to the groundsman always is ‘does the pitch have pace and bounce?’

“90 percent of the time it moves around and for 10 percent it doesn’t. Then it becomes a mental battle. Do you focus on the 10 percent or the 90 percent?

“We don’t ask for anything more than that. Vern (Philander) has been taking fifers here since he came out of nappies.

“It is still the same but we are speaking about it more. Test matches are also moving a lot quicker. It is not five day Test matches anymore.”

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