Pitch report: Newlands, Cape Town
Head groundsman: Evan Flint
Ends: Wynberg End, Kelvin Grove End
Home Team: Cape Cobras
Test History: 51 Tests; 21 home wins; 20 away wins; 10 draws
Last 10 Tests: 7 home wins; 1 away win; 2 draws
Last 10 Tosses: 5 batted first (4 losses, 1 win); 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 25 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 most recent Test under the mountain was in March 2014, when Australia ended the Proteas unbeaten streak stretching back to 2006. The Aussies won by 245 runs, with the Proteas losing their final three wickets late on day five.
The Aussies won the toss and opted to bat first, usually a losing proposition when facing the Proteas' pace attack here, but they made 494 for seven declared thanks to centuries from David Warner and Michael Clarke.
JP Duminy was the surprise wicket-taker in that innings, bagging four wickets with his then-part-time spin. The hosts then found themselves all out for 287, thanks to pace trio of Johnson, Harris and Pattinson.
The second innings saw Warner add his second ton of the game as the Aussies made 303 for five before declaring. This left the Proteas needing 511 to win, or bat out a day and a half. On day five, they lost the six wickets they had in hand, despite resistance by Duminy and Faf du Plessis.
Happy Hunting Ground
Only Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith have scored more than 1000 Test runs here, but as neither are around anymore, Hashim Amla is the next best bet. He's made 906 runs in 13 Tests, averaging 41, with two centuries and five half tons.
AB de Villiers is also up there, with two tons and three fifties, averaging just above 40. Alviro Petersen also has a decent record here, with two tons in five Tests, and will hope he can find some form here again.
The Windies last played here in 2008, so Chanderpaul, Samuels, Ramdin and Taylor have all played here. Chanders has the best record, scoring two half tons in that game, though they ended on the losing side.
Bowling-wise, Vernon Philander loves bowling at his home ground, and averages less than 17 with the ball. He's taken five wickets for just seven runs here, and has 31 wickets in just five matches.
Dale Steyn is the top wicket-taker here, with 58 wickets in 12 matches, and averages a touch under 22. Morne Morkel is inside the top 10, with 25 wickets in seven Tests.
Jacques Kallis on Newlands: "What better ground is there in the world? You've got the mountain, you've got beautiful weather, you've got great facilities. I grew up wanting to play at Newlands, bunking a few classes to come and watch matches. It's a magnificent place to play cricket. The crowds are always fantastic. They are always behind the guys."
Kallis on the conditions in March: "Sometimes we give up home advantage. We maybe could have got a wicket that gave a little more. The Australians, when there is some sideways movement, they are not always comfortable. They are very good on a wicket like this. Sometimes we have to be clever with our home conditions."
Michael Clarke on SA's pacemen after the game: "I don't like Morne one bit. Him and Dale keep aiming for my head, and they don't miss too often. Playing South Africa, and in South Africa, has been the greatest challenge."
It doesn't often rain too heavily in Cape Town in the summer, and this season has been very dry indeed. But the forecasts are showing more rain than normal for day four, though that appears to be more overcast than anything. But you never know with the Mother City, four seasons in one day sometimes. Hopefully it won't be a repeat of soggy PE.
It's all about that pace, 'bout that pace! Look, Steyn and Philander love bowling here, and unless the Windies batsmen find the same nuggety reserves they did in PE, this could be a mauling. The Proteas love playing here and have lost just once since 2006, and that's when they had to face a post-Ashes Mitchell Johnson.
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