Kingsmead says it will be ready for rest of season

A soggy outfield at Kingsmead forced 11 out of 15 sessions to be abandoned in the first South Africa-New Zealand Test AFP

Kingsmead has provided an assurance that the outfield issue which caused the first Test between South Africa and New Zealand to be abandoned earlier this week will not affect any other matches this season. Durban do not host a match for another five and a half weeks, when South Africa play Australia in an ODI on October 5, and acting CEO Rajesh Behari insists they will be ready.

"We are already hard at work taking measures to ensure that the condition of the outfield does not impact on both international and domestic fixtures in the future," Behari said in a statement.

Already, ground staff at Kingsmead have filled the exposed patches with top soil and have fertilised the field to prompt the grass to grow as they wait for the ICC's verdict after the outfield was rated poor by ICC match referee Andy Pycroft. CSA had 14 days from the issue of the report card to respond to it. The ground will then either receive a warning or a fine up to US$15,000.

In mitigation of the state of Kingsmead's outfield, which was deemed too soft for play on three days of the Test match, was that Durban experienced unseasonal rainfall of more than 400 millimetres in July and 65mm on the second night of the match. The heavy downpours meant the outfield was not allowed to settle after it was decompacted and relaid mid-June, following what CSA said were complaints by the South African and New Zealand players after limited-overs matches were played there last winter. It has since been reported by the Mercury that the New Zealand players did not have an issue with Kingsmead, but only said they found the Centurion outfield too hard.

Both SuperSport Park and Kingsmead had work done to their outfields in preparation for this series but SuperSport Park's revamp took place in April and only involved overseeding with winter grass, not digging. Kinsgmead's happened more than two weeks after Comrades' Marathon, which finished there on May 29, and saw 40 tonnes of sand removed and a new covering laid over it. It has since been claimed the digging at Kingsmead was also done too deeply. CSA oversaw both processes.

In this statement, Behari said the combination of all the factors contributed to the abandoned Test. Like CSA he acknowledged that his ground staff had done "everything in their power to deal with the problems with the softened outfield, but that their role was limited in scope by the match officials in charge of the Test once the wet outfield complications developed".

Umpires Ian Gould and Richard Illingworth asked the ground staff not to use any artificial means of drying the surface, fearing the super sopper would worsen the soggy outfield, and left it to natural sunshine and wind to dry and harden the ground. There was not enough of either for play to be possible but those watching from a distance, who saw clear blue skies on television and a tacky outfield below, were left to questions whether Kingsmead is up to international standard.

Behari is determined to reassure those critics with pristine conditions for the rest of the summer, in which Kingsmead will host two ODIs, three franchise first-class games, four franchise one-day cup matches and five franchise T20 matches. There are no more Test matches scheduled for Kingsmead this summer but it may come into contention for next season's Boxing Day match.

"We benchmark this stadium by the very best in the world and are determined to ensure that each and every match and Test matches in particular are memorable at this venue," Behari said. "The only ground to have hosted more Test matches in South Africa is Newlands and our rich Test cricket heritage here at is something that we guard unwaveringly. Summer rains are a reality in Durban and we want to make sure that this ground, which has a good reputation for drainage and dealing with rain delays, will be in top condition for the upcoming domestic fixtures as well as the two internationals against Australia and Sri Lanka."