South Africa v Australia, 1st Test, Cape Town November 8, 2011

Conditions will depend on Table Mountain

When the clouds drape over Table Mountain, to form the proverbial cloth, bowlers can come out to feast. So says Evan Flint, the Newlands groundsman who has prepared what is looking like a "win the toss and bowl" pitch in cool and rainy Cape Town.

"If there are clouds on the mountain, it will nip around quite a bit" Flint told ESPNcricinfo. "So everything really does depend on the mountain."

Some though, will be hoping the mountain, its clouds and north westerly wind, which brings persistent rain, could disappear for the next week. With drizzle, and more, dropping down for most of Tuesday and the forecast predicting it will continue into the first day, both teams plans are likely to be thwarted, along with Flint's, who started preparing the surface nine days before the match, instead of the usual seven.

"We've had to keep the pitch under cover through the day so it might be a bit tacky in the morning," he said. "We haven't had baking heat, even though there has been some sunshine, but it will probably be slower with less bounce. There won't be as much for spinners as there is in December or January but a quality spinner will still be able to turn the ball."

South Africa were toying with the idea of playing two spinners on a pitch that is likely to turn the most in the country, but the wet weather might force them to rethink that, unless the wind changes. "Once the south-easter kicks in, it will dry out the surface," Flint said. A south-easter is only forecast for days four and five of the match, although conditions are expected to clear from Thursday.

The weather will fuel what is being talked up as the most anticipated contest of the series, between fast bowlers and batsmen. "It's been a lot cooler than normal and if it stays cloudy, obviously it will nip around." Flint said.

It remains impossible to predict exactly what to expect because a Test match has not been played in November in Cape Town for ninety years. It is traditionally the home of the New Year's Test and has occasionally hosted matches in late summer months, such as February or March.

Coincidentally, the only two November Tests held in Cape Town have featured the same two teams. In 1921, in a Test that started on November 26, South Africa lost to Australia by 10 wickets. Nineteen years before that, the same result was achieved in a match that started on November 8. It's little wonder then that Graeme Smith is also unsure about what lies ahead.

"Newlands this time of the year is a little bit of an unknown, I haven't played too many Tests this time of year," Smith said. "The wicket will be a bit different to what we are used to. So far this season, the wickets haven't been the easiest to bat on. Through the three one-dayers, you would have seen none of the batsmen has really got a grasp on things and I expect it to be pretty similar. It will be about who can get stuck in and get a grip on things. One big partnership may make the difference in the game."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

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