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December 12, 2013
Benoni has received its entire year's rainfall in the last three weeks with 800 milimetres pouring down on the city and a tenth of that in the last two days. Despite that, Willowmoore Park groundsman Brendon Frost is confident his ground will be ready for India's two-day tour match starting Friday.
Frost and his team have spent the last week working from 5:30am to 7pm in an effort to ensure both the pitch and outfield are fit for play. Frost is already satisfied with the condition of the first and hopes that with only light showers forecast later on Thursday, the second will be all set by the morning.
"It has been quite a mission to get it up to standard but I'd say we're 90% there," Frost told ESPNcricinfo. "The pitch is nice and hard with an evening covering of grass so I'm happy with that. It's the outfield that's a bit of a concern because there are some places where it's a bit soft."
Drainage facilities at South African stadiums are known for their high quality. Water disappeared off both the SuperSport Park and Kingsmead surfaces almost as it landed but Willowmoore Park's is not as sophisticated. As a venue that does not host Tests and is the second home of the Titans, it does not get the same level of maintenance as bigger grounds, but Frost was still pleased with the way it has dried out so far.
"Two days ago, it was like one big dam," he said. "Now there are only one or two patches that we are worried about. We're using all the machines and bringing some extra soil in just to get it stable." Like SuperSport Park's Hilbert Smit, Frost used a tent to work on the pitch and is now making the super sopper work overtime to dry the outfield.
In South African domestic cricket circles, Willowmoore Park is known as a ground that can sometimes be too wet to play on, even if match day is dry but it has rained in the lead up. Last season, there was one such occasion but it has fared better this summer.
None of the franchise one-day cup matches or the provincial three-day games were affected by rain and only one provincial one-day cup match was abandoned to rain. The first-class fixture at the ground, played 10 days ago, was rained on but even after heavy downpours the teams got on the park.
Both the Titans and the Cape Cobras scored over 400 runs in their innings, an indication that despite the weather, the track was good for batting. Frost expects much of the same over the course of the next two days. "We've just been asked to prepare a decent cricket wicket," he said. "If there is something for the bowlers then it's there but if batsmen are prepared to work hard, there will be runs."
That will come as welcome news to India, who are short on batting time and form, going into the series. Their much vaunted line-up failed in the first two ODIs and did not get the opportunity to bat in the third. With adjusting to conditions, especially pace and bounce, the major talking point, they will want to make the most of the next two days.
Although South Africa's Invitation XI is not made up of all of their next-best players, India should still face decent opposition. Beuran Hendricks from the Cobras and Hardus Viljoen from the Lions are the two quicks they will be looking out for with Stephen Cook and Stiaan van Zyl the two local batsmen who will want to make an impression.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
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