Australia in South Africa, 2005-06 March 21, 2006

Newlands groundsman hits back

Cricinfo staff

Stuart Clark enjoyed the seamer-friendly conditions at Cape Town, taking nine wickets in Australia's nine-wicket win © Getty Images
The Newlands groundsman, Christo Erasmus, has hit out at the South African management for leaving him as the scapegoat for the pitch he prepared for the first Test against Australia. South Africa lost the match inside three days on a surface that offered lavish assistance to the seamers throughout.

However, Erasmus was surprised that South Africa chose to bat after winning the toss and believes Shane Warne's history against them was a huge factor. In the end, Stuart Clark took nine wickets on debut as Australia won by seven wickets.

"It seemed that Shane Warne won the Test for Australia before the game started," Erasmus told The Cape Times. "Instead of playing the conditions as they were, the South Africans only seemed to worry about facing Warne on the fifth day."

Erasmus added that Mickey Arthur, the South African coach, had phoned him before the start of the Test stating he wanted a pitch that would help the seamers for the first two days. However, Erasmus followed his instincts and produced what he thought would be the best surface.

But two days before the Test started members of the South African team said they were not happy with the way the pitch was taking shaped and suggested to Erasmus that it would be tailor made for Warne.

"They said I was playing into Australia's hands," said Erasmus. "But I've been preparing pitches at Newlands for nine years and I knew that it was not a raging turner. Yes, the square is a bit worn at the back end of the season, but the cracks would not have widened."

With two matches remaining in the series, at Durban and Johannesburg, Erasmus cautioned other groundsmen against being pressured: "They shouldn't blame the groundsman, and I advise other groundsmen not to open themselves up to external pressure, like I did."