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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • david on November 9, 2011, 12:07 GMT

    this series is beteen SA v australia if the aussies win 0 - 2 then both teams will be on 110 points and equal 3rd. india if they beat WI 3 - 0 will be 2nd on 119. to those who not certain thats 15 points behind england. i had to make this simple in case theres certain doubters. so it looks like it will be england v SA in our summer with the saffers having to win 0 - 3 to take top spot from them. with those 2 teams having the best attacks in world cricket its only fitting they should be fighting for #1 position. dpk

  • Manesh on November 9, 2011, 11:48 GMT

    @Mangesh Shinde-surrendered To Krishna. You cannot bought that pitch and conditions in India. That's because of different geographical style!. And that doesn't meant that turning tracks are not good for test cricket. If that was the case, there will not be legends like Warne, Murali and Kumble.

  • Dummy4 on November 9, 2011, 10:03 GMT

    esxcellent conditions for test cricket....not like Indian dry picthes...good bounce, pretty green top wicket...damp weather, with cool breeze to help swingers,,,,excellent i just love it....

  • Shubash on November 9, 2011, 9:40 GMT

    @zenboomerang: For Aussie spin issues, I reckon they've overlooked steve o'keefe. The guy has a first class average of 25. Deserves a go if Lyon flops, and Hauritz should be mentioned as well. At the moment, my test spin hierarchy is Lyon, Hauritz then O'Keefe.

  • andrews on November 9, 2011, 9:13 GMT

    Yes, England's hold on number one is tenuous, and Victorian, you cannot point to one Test series to refute that. England have exactly the fourth best Test record at the moment, and it is very likely that Australia's and South Africa's records across all conditions will always be better than England's. They certainly are now if you care to look.

  • Andrew on November 9, 2011, 7:21 GMT

    @ zenboomerang - The Saffas juniors ARE England's juniors - LOL! I actually think there are signs that our spinning stocks are on the improve. The biggest negative I see is that Katich is currently the lead spin wicket taker!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Satish on November 9, 2011, 3:57 GMT

    @orangtan - India had played in all overseas conditions in last two years apart from Aussies which they are going to do soon.. Now the return tours will pop up and India need to play in home for next couple of years.. As far as history goes, India are strong in home and if they maintain the supremacy, they can easily regain the No.1 rank!!

  • Roo on November 9, 2011, 3:18 GMT

    @orangtan... SA, Oz, Pak top 3?... lol... Look at the juniors in England & India... great depth... Not sure about SA & Pak juniors... In Aus we currently have great depth except in spin... How are we going to beat Eng & Ind at their home?... Warne & Swann prove a vg spinner removes the tail with a good paceman at the other end... Lyon, Beer, Holland, Bailey, Smith - yet to go to the next level... Doherty, Krejza haven't... Hauritz maybe...

  • Paul on November 9, 2011, 1:33 GMT

    How is England's hold on the No. 1 test spot tenuous? They're by far the best Test team in the world at the moment. They went to Australia and beat them 3 times by an innings!! Australia still have plenty of work to do to get back in the top 3 but I think they're on the right path!

  • Orang on November 8, 2011, 23:22 GMT

    Game on, it's these 2 countries and Pakistan which will be at the top for the rest of the decade. England's hold on the # 1 position is tenuous, India is poised to plummet, and Sri Lanka's fangs have been drawn in the post-Murali era.

  • No featured comments at the moment.