Pitch report: The Wanderers, Johannesburg


There hasn't been a draw at this ground since late 2000, so if the weather allows a proper amount of play, there will be a result, possible before day five if the Proteas pacemen have anything to do with it.

<B>Established:</B> 1956<br><B>Capacity:</B> 34,000<br><B>Floodlights:</B> Yes<br><B>Ends:</B> Corlett Drive End, Golf Course End<br><B>Home Team:</B> Highveld Lions<br><B>Head Groundsman:</B> Chris Scott<br><B>Test History:</B> 34 Tests; 14 home wins; 10 away wins; 10 draws<br><B>Last 10 Tests:</B> 5 home wins; 5 away wins<br><B>Last 10 tosses:</B> 10 batted first (7 wins, 3 defeats)

<B>Overview</B><br>The New Wanderers ground, situated in Illovo, Johannesburg, became the third cricket venue in the city after the Old Wanderers Stadium and Coca-Cola 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.

<B>Last Time Out</B><br>The most recent match at the Bullring was in January 2013, when South Africa beat Pakistan by 211 runs in the morning session on day four, with Dale Steyn taking 11 wickets in the match.

The Proteas batted first and made a poor 253 all out, with Jacques Kallis' half century ensuring a defendable score. This target was made to look positively mammoth though, as Pakistan were all out for 49 early on day two.

Steyn took six of those wickets, giving up just eight runs, while only two Pakistan batsmen reached double figures, and none making it past 13. The Proteas then added 275 for three declared, with AB de Villiers scoring an unbeaten ton.

This left Pakistan with 480 to chase over two and a half days. Nasir Jamshed, Misbah-ul-Haq and Asad Shafiq resisted, with the latter two making fifties, but Steyn's five wickets saw them all out for 268.

<B>Happy Hunting Ground</B><br>Three of the top five international batsmen at this venue will be playing in the upcoming match, with Jacques Kallis the top scorer and the only player to have more than 1000 runs here. He averages 41.25.

Graeme Smith is next on the list, nearly 400 runs behind Kallis, but with a higher average. The best in terms of stats though is Hashim Amla, averaging nearly 60 in seven Tests, and joining Smith and Kallis on two tons.

On the bowling front, as evidenced above, Dale Steyn loves this deck. He has 47 wickets in eight Tests, averaging just over 18 and sitting third on the list behind Makhaya Ntini and Shaun Pollock. Kallis has 33 wickets in 17 Tests.

Of the India side, only MS Dhoni and Zaheer Khan have played a Test here, and while Zaheer took five wickets in 2006, Dhoni failed with the bat in both innings.

<b>They Said</b><br>Former India spinner Anil Kumble on the South African pitches: ""It does not spin much but you do get bounce from the surface. The spinners have to take that into account when they set the field.

"The ball tends to get soft after 20 overs, so the spinners need to handle that in the middle overs. Between the grounds, there is not much at Johannesburg but Durban does a bit more. And if the game goes to the fourth and fifth day, the spinners will have a role."

India batsman Murali Vijay said of his strategy for the game: "I've a fair idea of what to expect here. The key is to leave the ball in Test cricket. That has brought me a lot of success."

<B>Weather Forecast</B><BR>Thundershowers are par for the course in Joburg in the summer, but a bit more rain is predicted for this match. Day one is set for a stop-start affair, while Thursday is also under a cloud. The last three days look a bit better, but the ground staff will have their work cut out for them.

<B>Conclusion</B><br>There hasn't been a draw at this ground since late 2000, so if the weather allows a proper amount of play, there will be a result, possible before day five if the Proteas pacemen have anything to do with it.

When the sides faced each other in an ODI here recently, Quinton de Kock scored a century and the Proteas made 301, before rain ended the game. It was a typical knock in that wickets fell, but once a batsman is set, they should kick on.

It will be an interesting battle between South Africa's superior pace attack and India's in-form top order, while India's spinners could be vital in the latter stages though Ravi Ashwin has not enjoyed good form away from home.