"There might be another 47 all out or something like that here."
Someone in the know, and we can't really say which someone in the know, said these words at Newlands on New Year's Day. They weren't said quite as robustly as a resolution, nor with as much whimsy as a wish, but with just the right mix of nerves and certainty to be taken seriously.
South Africa have asked the groundstaff to leave much more grass on the pitch than usual, as they did in Port Elizabeth. That strip was designed to turn Rangana Herath into Casper the Friendly Ghost and it succeeded. This one is expected to do the same and more. The thick grass covering could aid seam movement, as it did when South Africa played Australia in November 2011 and the ball moved just enough to cause chaos.
After South Africa were bowled out for 96 replying to 284, Australia were dismissed for 47. Twenty three wickets fell in the day, the record at a South African ground, as some part of all four innings unfolded. Gary Kirsten, who was South Africa's coach at the time, left the ground to be with his new-born daughter and when he returned asked if there had been rain because the action had been fast-forwarded so much.
The memory of that madness, however, has faded for his successor, Russell Domingo, who was then the assistant. "It was so long ago that I don't even remember it," he half-jokingly told journalists on Sunday to play down the prospect of something similar in the next five days. "Those things don't happen too often. So I can't see that happening for a while."
Since the beginning of the series against Sri Lanka, Domingo and captain Faf du Plessis have praised South African pitches for providing a fair contest while acknowledging they were also prepared to suit the home side.
"I wouldn't we are say making the most of it [home advantage]. South Africa and Australia are maybe the two places that provide for a fair contest with both bat and ball. It showed in Port Elizabeth, where it did a bit on day one. But then it was really good to bat on and the ball spun a little bit on day three. Our wickets produce good, fair contests," Domingo said.
Sri Lanka coach Graham Ford almost agreed. "I guess home advantage is something you see around the world. Certainly the pitch in Port Elizabeth suited South Africa. It's exactly what they wanted and not what we wanted," he said. "This looks pretty similar. Maybe they'll give it another cut. I think they've had pretty dry conditions here for a while. Hopefully there's not too much moisture in the surface."
Ford was proven right. Despite initial suggestion that no grass would be cut off the pitch, after South Africa's training session had ended and with Sri Lanka at the ground, there was a bit of trimming going on. It was not known whether the instruction from South Africa had changed, or the threat of a dramatically shortened Test was looming too large.
South African administrators would prefer the match went as deep as possible, ideally five days, because Newlands is their best chance of making money on gate-takings. On Friday, over 57,000 tickets had been bought for the match including a capacity 22,000 on the first day and 6,500 for each of the fourth and fifth days.
The weather is set to play ball too. Apart from some strong gusts, conditions should be perfect for cricket watching. Depending on which side you are on, perhaps not entirely perfect for playing.