New Zealand tour of South Africa, 2005-06 April 21, 2006

Newlands pitch may assist batting

Cricinfo staff

South Africa's batting has largely struggled at home this summer © Getty Images

Following Graeme Smith's comments that Test pitches at home this season were "a lottery", the groundstaff at Cape Town have tried their best to provide a track more suited for batting. Aided by a pitch which provided plenty of seam movement and variable bounce, Makhaya Ntini and Dale Steyn had New Zealand in all sorts of trouble at Centurion earlier this week. Now matters may be slightly different, according to Christo Erasmus, a Newlands groundsman.

Erasmus, who came in for plenty of criticism a month ago when the first Test against Australia lasted only three days, said he was trying to provide a flatter surface which will even out the contest between bat and ball. "I want to give the teams a normal cricket wicket, one the guys can bat on, but which also rewards bowlers who can get it in the right areas," he told Cape Argus, a South African daily.

For the Australia match, the pitch was watered late to try to accommodate a desire to provide a seaming track to suit the home side's strengths. This time around, Erasmus, in his last game before moving on to a new job, will be battling natural moisture. "It's the latest we've had a match at Newlands in my time here," he said. "Because the seasons are changing, there is more dew around in the mornings. Rain has also been forecast for the next few days, and this adds up to higher water levels. In normal summer heat, the ground dries much quicker, but even though we get 30°C days now the drying effect is not as good."

Erasmus conceded that he would not have to any extra watering on the same pitch that South Africa played Australia on, as "there was more dew around". If he succeeds in laying on a surface on which batsmen feel more at home, it will provide a more even contest between bowlers and batsmen.

The second Test between the sides starts next Thursday.