Pitch report – Kingsmead, Durban
We profile the venue for the second and final Test between South Africa and India in Durban, where South Africa have not won since 2008.
<b>Established:</b> 1923<br><b>Capacity:</b> 25,000<br><b>Head groundsman:</b> Wilson Ngobese<br><b>Floodlights:</b> Yes<br><b>Ends:</b> Umgeni End, Old Fort End<br><b>Home Team:</b> Dolphins<br><b>Test History:</b> 39 Tests; 13 home wins; 13 away wins; 13 draws<br><b>Last 10 Tests:</b> 4 home wins; 5 away wins; 1 draw<br><b>Last 10 Tosses:</b> 5 batted first (3 wins, 2 defeats); 5 bowled first (3 wins, 1 draw, 1 defeat)
<b>Overview</b><br>Kingsmead is within walking distance of Durban's iconic beaches, meaning that fans can always have a dip in the ocean after a day's play, but its location does make it susceptible to bad light and the humid climate also means frequent thunderstorms abound – which primes <a href='http://www.paddypower.com/bet/cricket' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><b>online cricket betting odds</b></a> for the draw.
The ground is famous for the Timeless Test between South Africa and England in 1939, in which over 1,900 runs were scored. The game ended after 10 days, as the tourists had to catch a boat back home. Another significant fixture at the ground was South Africa's first home Test after readmission into international sport in 1992, India the visitors that occasion.
Every second year the stadium acts as the finish for the Comrades Marathon, while in 2010 thousands of Australian soccer fans camped out in a tented village on the ground during the World Cup in South Africa.
Durban is traditionally the venue for the Boxing Day Test, but with crowds dwindling towards the mid-2000s, Cricket South Africa decided to hand the 26 December fixture to Port Elizabeth in 2007.
As South Africa then went on tour to Australia in 2008 it was a three-year break before the Boxing Day Test returned to Durban in 2009, when England were the visitors. It has been five years since fans have seen the home side win here.
<b>Last Time Out</b><br>The Proteas were admittedly poor in December 2011, laying to wast fast bowler Marchant de Lange's first-innings seven-for on debut in a 208-run defeat inside four days.
Patient centuries from batsmen Thilan Samaraweera and Kumar Sangakkara made for impressive first- and second-innings totals respectively, after which seamer Chanaka Welegedara and spinner Rangana Herath completed the result with nine wickets between them.
The Proteas, indeed, were correct in fielding three fast bowlers, a lone spinner in Imran Tahir and the seam of the veteran Jacques Kallis, but the batsmen's inability to hand a military attack from the sub-continent was glaring.
<b>Happy Hunting Ground</b><br>All-rounder <b>Jacques Kallis</b>, captain <b>Graeme Smith</b> and wicketkeeper-batsman <b>AB de Villiers</b> have each played more than 10 Tests here, but only Kallis has managed a ground average a smidgeon more than his career aggregate.
Fast bowler Dale Steyn has welcomed 29 wickets in six matches, but at an average of a rather pricey 25.37 (his career numbers are some three digits less.) Kallis is next in line with 19 from 15 – disappointingly a little more than a solitary wicket per match.
India have managed to retain as many as five of the triumphant 2010 XI. Left-armer <b>Zaheer Khan</b>, in particular, will be eager to rekindle of a solid performance then, three years later.
<b>They Said</b><br>"It looks pretty dry, which is probably not what we were expecting with the amount of rain they've had around. I know the nature of the pitch has changed over the last five or six years so we were thinking it would be a bit slower than what we've become accustomed to over the last ten years so it's going to be a hard Test match. It's not going to be a short 180-all-out game. It's going to be another tough Test under conditions which probably won't be of major benefit for us." – South Africa coach <b>Russell Domingo</b>.
"We haven't had the best record in Durban over a period of time and we are looking forward to putting that right. One of the reasons was that we didn't adapt to conditions in time. The surface can change every day. Day two can be difficult to bat instead of day one and overhead conditions can play a role. But then, it can get hot and it can get flat." – South Africa captain <b>Graeme Smith</b>.
<b>Weather Forecast</b><br>Rain, unfortunately, has been predicted throughout the five days. Durban, however, is synonymous for sporadic showers rather than persistent drizzle – so perhaps the inclement weather won't have an overall say. It will, however, put the curator and company under pressure in the build-up.
A pitch that has sweated under covers for lengthy periods is bound to bring some intriguing variables, and bowling first if triumphant at the toss might be the order of the day. The region, meanwhile, is sure to yield characteristic humidity regardless.
<b>Conclusion</b><br>Not nicknamed the 'Green Mamba' for nothing, the Kingsmead pitch is notorious for providing assistance to the faster men. The wicket is laid slightly below sea level – leading to a theory that high tide generally brings a flurry of wickets.
While all-seam bowling outfits have been common in the past at Kingsmead, both South Africa and India are likely to field a spinner each. Herath proved in 2012, with nine wickets, that a quality spinner can make a telling impact – and Indian slow bowler <a href='http://www.paddypower.com/bet/cricket/cricket-test-matches?ev_oc_grp_ids=996932' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><b>Ravichandran Ashwin is at 22/1</b></a> to oblige. After winning the toss against India in 2010 and seeing it backfire, Smith might find himself in two minds this time around, should he win it again.
It won't present an easy option as the skippers will have to consider the weather conditions on the opening morning, while also weighing up the options posed by bowling first versus batting last.
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