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Ken Borland

Even more uncertainty for hesitant Proteas with newly relaid Kingsmead pitch

Posted on April 25, 2022 by Ken

The Proteas are always a bit hesitant about what they will find on the opening morning of a Test at Kingsmead and they will go into the first Test against Bangladesh starting in Durban on Thursday with even more uncertainty as a newly relaid pitch will be used for the match.

South Africa have lost seven of their last 10 Tests at Kingsmead, dating back to 2008, with just two wins and a rain-ruined draw against New Zealand in 2016. Their last Test there was the infamous one-wicket loss to Sri Lanka in 2019.

The Proteas have seldom found the sluggish pitch to their liking, their bowlers struggling to drag much life out of it, and their strokeplayers also unsure of themselves. The home side was happy to see a fair covering of grass on the wicket on Wednesday, but it was of a hue that left even KZN Dolphins star Keshav Maharaj confused as to how it might behave.

“It’s difficult to know how the pitch will play because we have not seen this colour of grass here before,” left-arm spinner Maharaj said on Wednesday. “It is a newly relaid surface and it is difficult to read.

“From my point of view, I hope it does spin of course. We’re expecting it to be a good four-day pitch and I’m sure there will be some thought of playing double spinners.

“I’ve never played a match with Simon Harmer, so I will be really excited if he does get the opportunity. He’s been an exceptional performer at domestic and franchise level, and he’s followed that up this season.

“He’s also done well when he played international cricket,” Maharaj said of the off-spinner who took 20 wickets in the five Tests he played up to 2015 before his Kolpak departure, at an average of 29.40.

With some new faces in line to take the place of the players unavailable because they are at the IPL, Maharaj is expecting the Proteas to play with great energy as they look to win their first Test at Kingsmead since 2013, when Jacques Kallis signed off his Test career with a memorable century against India.

“We’ve had a phenomenal year since touring the West Indies. Yes, there have been some lows, and the ODI loss to Bangladesh has hurt, but this is a different unit and hopefully we can carry the confidence from the Test series against India,” Maharaj said.

“This team has come a long way, we make training uncomfortable to try emulate what we will come across in terms of conditions, and we are ready to turn the tide at Kingsmead.

“There’s a new buzz in the camp because there are a lot of youngsters, hopefully those new faces help us start on the front foot because it will be difficult in a two-Test series if we make a slow start,” Maharaj said.

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