Pitch Report: The Wanderers
Ends: Corlett Drive End, Golf Course End
Home Team: Highveld Lions
Head Groundsman: Bethuel Buthelezi
Test History: 37 Tests; 14 home wins; 12 away wins; 11 draws
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
A diabolical pitch nearly saw the match abandoned when India visited earlier this season but in the end was completed with the tourists earning a consolation win that would cement their place at the top of the ICC Test rankings.
Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami bagged five-fers while Bhuvi Kumar’s 33 proved to be invaluable in India’s second innings.
It was a low-scoring affair that India won on the fourth day by 63 runs.
Happy Hunting Ground
Hashim Amla is 11 runs away from recording 1000 in Test cricket at the Wanderers with a best of 176 not out.
Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel are in a dead heat on 26 wickets each in terms of leading wicket-takers at the Wanderers in the current group.
Only Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon have played at the Wanderers before in an Australia camp hit by suspensions, Cummins is both top runscorer and wicket-taker.
Sorry folks literally no-one has said anything about the pitch this week with all attention focused on the Aussie tampering trio.
There is a pretty good chance the Test will be interrupted by rain with showers at least 50% likely on each of the five days.
The captain winning the toss should bat first although it will be interesting to see how Tim Paine and Faf du Plessis read the pitch.
Usually the pitch there is the truest of the surfaces in South Africa while also laying claim to being the fastest.
With three batsmen dropping out Paine may be tempted to give the ball to his quicks first up and hope they can do some damage.
Du Plessis would be happy to bat unless something in the surface gives him another impression.
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