A walk through the Wanderers
Ends: Corlett Drive End, Golf Course End
Home Team: Highveld Lions
Head Groundsman: Bethuel Buthelezi
Test History: 36 Tests; 14 home wins; 11 away wins; 11 draws
Last 10 Tests: 4 home wins; 5 away wins, 1 draw
Last 10 tosses: 10 batted first (5 wins, 4 defeats, 1 draw)
The New Wanderers ground, situated in Illovo, Johannesburg, became the third cricket venue in the city after the Old Wanderers Stadium and Ellis Park (which serves as the city’s main rugby union stadium).
The ground was completely redeveloped following South Africa’s readmission to international cricket in 1991 and further renovated for the 2003 World Cup, when it played host to the final between Australia and India.
Known as ‘The Bullring’ for its rotund design and intimidating atmosphere, the Wanderers is part of a greater sporting complex that is steeped in history, although the clubhouse was recently rebuilt after being gutted by fire in 2004.
The new clubhouse is similar in design to the original and contains an excellent stash of memorabilia, while the bar offers some of the cheapest drinks in town.
The ground sports an archetypal South African wicket – hard and dry with plenty of bounce – which often provides lots of seam movement up front. The inclusion of a spinner can be helpful for the second innings but it’s rare for a twirler to take five – New Zealand’s Matthew Hart and Australia’s John Gleeson are the only spinners to do so since South Africa’s readmission.
But while the Wanderers is often generous to seamers, the wicket can also be a great batting strip. Undeniable proof of this came in March 2006 when the ground played host to the most remarkable one-day international game in history, as South Africa successfully chased down Australia’s world record total of 434 for 4.
While that match was of a freakish nature, it’s generally known that if a Test batsman can get past the initial examination provided by the seam and bounce, then there are plenty of runs to be had.
Last Time Out
The Proteas slumped to a seven wicket defeat in January of 2016 with Stuart Broad claiming 6 for 17 in the home team’s disastrous second innings effort of 83 all out.
Joe Root cracked a hundred for England in the first innings and Kagiso Rabada claimed his first career five for in his second Test.
Happy Hunting Ground
Hashim Amla has scored 742 runs at the venue including two hundreds and four fifties and will be looking to this hard and true surface to help him regain his touch.
Vernon Philander’s 17 wickets place him at the top of the tree at the Bullring at least among currently available players with Dale Steyn’s 48 wickets the best of current bowlers.
Curator Bethuel Buthelezi said: “I will keep grass on the pitch and there will be bounce and carry. But there won’t be as much in the wicket as there was for Broad. This will be a wicket that will offer run-scoring opportunities.
We seem set for five days of typical Highveld weather with warm days giving way to afternoon showers, interruptions are likely but shouldn’t be too severe.
Groundsman Bethuel Buthelezi says this will be a result deck, but has added there will be less juice in the track than last year, as the test wears on the cracks could open up a bit more, though spin is not often king at the Bullring and the pace and bounce could prove too much for Sri Lanka.
Batting first is almost guaranteed, and navigating the first day will be priority number one for the batting side, as the little greenery around will assist the pacemen, as stats and history has shown.
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