South African cricket September 18, 2008

Newlands to get facelift

Cricinfo staff

New-look Newlands: The renovation exercise will be mainly concentrated on the outfield © Getty Images

Plagued by problems with the playing surface and the outfield over the last two years, the Newlands stadium in Cape Town is currently getting a facelift. Turftek, the premier turf grass specialists of South Africa, has been entrusted with the renovation exercise to be concentrated mainly on the outfield.

Head groundsman and curator Evan Flint had, after recent inspections and tests, found the outfield to have an extremely inconsistent slope as well as an uneven surface. The regular use of lime for marking hockey lines had also affected the soil profile in certain areas and there was some concern over the mix of turf grasses as well.

The work, to be completed over 15-20 working days, will include the harvesting of new sods and excavation of the soil to remove the old ones. The field will also be scarified, ripped and rotated with the outfield scheduled to be laser-levelled to a selected gradient as well.

The stadium, home of Western Province Cricket, is expected to be ready by December 14 in time for the domestic championship match between the Cape Cobras and the Dolphins. The stadium last hosted an ODI between South Africa and West Indies in January.

Incidentally, it was during the second Test of that series when problems cropped up, though twelve months earlier in the third Test against Pakistan the playing surface had been called into question after neither side passed 200.

Well-timed shots during the match against the West Indies were strangled by overlong grass which, according to many pundits, reduced first-innings totals by 30 to 40 runs. The Western Province authorities had brought in Peter Muzzell, a specialist pitch consultant, who believed the outfield had not been properly mown and tended to in recent months. However, he could do little as changing the height of the grass during the middle of the match would be unfair to the teams.

Even till last season the outfield was in shambles and at one stage there was talk of the World T20 matches assigned to Newlands being moved to an alternate venue.