Pitch Report: Newlands, Cape Town
Head groundsman: Evan Flint
Ends: Wynberg End, Kelvin Grove End
Home Team: Cape Cobras
Test History: 55 Tests; 24 home wins; 20 away wins; 11 draws
It could be the location, or perhaps the backdrop of Table Mountain. Maybe it’s the oak trees or the brewery next door, but Newlands has that something special.
It might also just be that Cape Town and in particular the New Year’s Test delivers the most reliable and excitable crowds in South Africa.
Added to the spectator-friendly environment is the sporting nature of the pitch, which has seen just five drawn Tests in 28 matches since readmission. Newlands has also been something of a fortress for South Africa in that time – the only side to beat them here since 1993 is Australia, although they have done it four times.
The ground hosted its first Test match in March 1889, when England defeated South Africa by an innings and 202 runs. References to ‘The New Lands’ date back to early colonial maps in 1656 and 1661, when the Dutch settlement located at today’s Cape Town city centre literally spread out into new lands, where the current suburb of Newlands is located.
While redevelopment in the 90s saw stands replace some of the grass embankments as the stadium became a 25,000-seater, fans still pack the grassy eastern side of the ground to enjoy the shade of the oaks and a splendid view of Table Mountain behind the cricket action.
Last Time Out
The Proteas and India contested a low-scoring thriller which the hosts won by 72 runs.
India showed their pace attack was a force to be reckoned with and both sides struggled against the moving ball.
Hardik Pandya struck a memorable 93 to arrest a first innings collapse that may have seen the Test end extremely early.
Vernon Philander was the man of the match for his effort of 6/42 in India’s chase.
Happy Hunting Ground
Hashim Amla averages 44.42 at Newlands having scored 1244 runs there including a double ton against England in 2016.
Steve Smith’s return of 120 runs across two innings in 2014 means that he leads the Aussie squad in runs scored in Tests at Newlands.
Dale Steyn has 67 wickets at Newlands more than any other Test bowler in history while Vernon Philander’s total of 47 makes him the leading wicket-taker at Newlands among the current squad.
Nathan Lyon is the only member of the Australian bowling attack to have played at Newlands and he ended wicketless in two Tests.
Australia skipper Smith wasn’t too sure how abrasive the late summer Newlands pitch will be saying: “It’s going to depend on how rough we can get the rough side by hitting the wicket.
“You can see Starcy is a massive weapon for us when we want to get the ball reversing, the way he releases the ball he can land it on the rough side and rough it up naturally.
“I dare say it’s still going to play a part, but I don’t think it will play a part as quick as what it probably has in the past two Test matches.”
There is a slender chance of rain on Saturday (day three) but otherwise we are set fair for another cracking Newlands Test.
It might be another good toss to lose with the ball expected to do a bit off the pitch up front though the bounce should be true.
Generally though it is a good idea to bat first at Newlands.
The spinners may well come into the game later in the piece with then surface not expected to be as green as the one rolled out for India.
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