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January 10, 2010
South Africa will bank on home advantage finally paying off against England with a pitch that will boost their chances of levelling the series in the final Test at the Wanderers. After failing to take the visitors' last wicket at Newlands, South Africa must win to avoid successive home series defeats, following last year's loss to Australia, and are looking for a few favours.
The pitch at Cape Town became slower as the match went on making the new ball a crucial period of each innings. However, the expectation is that the surface at Johannesburg will offer something for the quicks throughout after above average rainfall around the highveld in the last few weeks.
The man in charge of producing the 22 yards is Chris Scott and he knows what South Africa are looking for. "Obviously they have to win the Test, they don't want to lose the series. They are looking at a result wicket because they don't want to end with another draw," he told Cricinfo.
The Test strip will be one of the surfaces that was used for the Champions Trophy in September, which provided considerable help for the quick bowlers. Scott expects similar conditions this week, but has ensured his main surfaces have been protected with no matches on them since the Champions Trophy.
The Wanderers has staged a huge amount of cricket in the last 12 months, with Scott also having to produce surfaces for the IPL. His job has been made harder by a reduction in the number of pitches available down from six to four, which has meant a juggling act to get surfaces ready.
"Last year, I lost two of my main pitches and they are out of commission for the whole season so everything has had to be squeezed on the others and it has been more of a challenge," he said. "But I've kept the Test pitch protected, there hasn't been any cricket on it since the Champions Trophy to allow them to recover.
"They'll be pretty much like the Champions Trophy I would say," he added. "The pitches for the Champions Trophy were not accidental, I said before the tournament that the pitches would be more lively, but I had to have them that way because I needed to look after them because they were my Test and ODI surfaces. I had to nurture them because I only had the other two to fall back on."
Despite having produced a mass of pitches for one-day and Twenty20 cricket in recent months, it is still the skill of providing a Test strip that gives Scott most satisfaction.
"I've always maintained that a Test wicket should live up to its name in that it's a test between bat and ball, unlike one-day cricket where everything is so loaded towards the batsman that the bowlers almost have no chance," he said.
"I actually enjoy doing a Test wicket because it allows you to create something that is going to have a balance and I love seeing Test cricket in that sense. The bowlers have got something to work with, there's a bit more grass on the pitch, and over five days - if it lasts that long - the pitch will deteriorate."