Amble around Newlands
Head groundsman: Evan Flint
Ends: Wynberg End, Kelvin Grove End
Home Team: Cape Cobras
Test History: 53 Tests; 22 home wins; 20 away wins; 11 draws
Last 10 Tests: 6 home wins; 1 away win; 3 draws
Last 10 Tosses: 5 batted first (3 losses, 1 win, 1 draw); 5 bowled first (3 wins, 2 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
England and South Africa both scored 600+ in their first innings in a match that ended in a draw.
Ben Stokes and Hashim Amla scored double tons on perhaps the most placid Newlands wicket in recent memory.
The test also saw Temba Bavuma score his maiden Test ton and witnessed the beginning of an incredible year for Jonny Bairstow who scored an unbeaten 150.
Happy Hunting Ground
Hashim Amla averages a touch over 50 at Newlands having scored 1208 runs there and scored a double ton against England last year.
Vernon Philander has 31 wickets at the ground and fond memories of destroying Australia at what is his home ground.
Proteas paceman Kyle Abbott said: “I know Evan [Flint, the Newlands groundsman] is reluctant to leave a lot of grass out there. Hopefully reverse swing will come into play. We have seen it come in there over the last few Test matches and it’s crucial.
“We struggled to get it going this [Port Elizabeth] Test match, mainly because of the pitch. There was a lot of grass on the pitch and it wasn’t really allowing for the ball to get scuffed up. But we’re probably going to have to work as hard as we did over these five days.”
Rain in summer is not a problem for Cape Town normally, and the forecast reflects that. All five days are set to be hot to the point of sweltering, and sunny all day. Pack the sunblock if you’re going to sit on the grass banks!
Newlands is one of those rare places that offers a bit of everything pace and swing early on, runs for batsmen if they concentrate as the ball comes onto the bat, and also a bit of help for the spinners later on.
This will not be a case of the losing team being able to moan about the deck, and it’s a result wicket to boot. It should be an entertaining few days, for sure.
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