Newlands rolls out the green carpet
Head groundsman: Evan Flint
Ends: Wynberg End, Kelvin Grove End
Home Team: Cape Cobras
Test History: 54 Tests; 23 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
In a Test overshadowed by the announcement that Kyle Abbott had signed a Kolpak deal with Hampshire and would be playing his last match for the Proteas, Sri Lanka were overwhelmed by the home sides pace attack.
After Dean Elgar’s century helped SA post 392 all out before Kagiso Rabada (4/37) and Vernon Philander (4/27) skittled Sri Lanka for just 110.
South Africa declined to enforce the follow on instead posting 224/7 declared with Elgar topscoring again with 55.
Sri Lanka were bowled out for 224 chasing 507 to win with Rabada claiming a ten wicket match haul after returning figures of 6/55 in the fourth innings.
Happy Hunting Ground
Hashim Amla averages 47.57 at Newlands having scored 1237 runs there and scored a double ton against England in 2016.
Dale Steyn has 65 wickets at Newlands more than any other Test bowler in history.
Speaking a few days ahead of the Test Philander said he expectd the wicket to dry out a bit: “I have played here all my life. I’ve seen a lot of similar wickets and they haven’t done much. Obviously there’s a little bit of grass there but I don’t think it’s going to scare anyone.
“Look I think, there’s a little bit of grass. Tomorrow (one day before the Test) is hot. I think by the time the Test match starts, it’ll be little drier.
“The wicket changes quite quickly here, depending on the type of wind that blows as well. By Friday morning, it’ll be a total different looking wicket.”
Plenty of grass at Newlands but it’s also very hard. I predict much bounce… pic.twitter.com/V9MXbGrmAt
— Neil Manthorp (@NeilManthorp) January 4, 2018
Rain in summer is not a problem for Cape Town normally a peak at the forecast reveals possible rain on Sunday but Capetonians will say ‘fat chance’.
The lack of rain has not prevented a generous covering of grass on the Newlands pitch, expect bounce and seam in the first five sessions of the Test at least.
It might be a good toss to lose with the ball expected to do a bit off the pitch up front though the bounce should be true.
Spin shouldn’t factor in too much with the grass likely to hold the surface together well.
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