Durban:South Africa and New Zealand go into a one-match shootout for series honors when they meet in the second and final Test starting at SuperSport Park in Centurion.
The Proteas can nudge up one place to sixth in the International Cricket Council (ICC) Test rankings if they win, while the Black Caps will remain fifth irrespective of the result.
But the reputation of Test cricket is at much at stake as rankings points after a farcical first Test in Durban where less than 100 overs of cricket were played before a wet, soft outfield prevented any play on the last three days.
There was even less cricket in a Test match between the West Indies and India in Port of Spain, also because of outfield conditions. It is the first time Test cricket has been played in South Africa in August, almost two months before the usual start of the season.
Preparing grounds for winter conditions has been a challenge – which Durban failed to meet after re-seeding the outfield only two months before the match.
Following reports from the match referees, the outfields in Durban and Port of Spain were condemned as “poor” by the ICC.
Centurion groundsman Rudolph du Preez had the advantage of planting winter grass much earlier than Durban, with work starting in April, almost immediately after the 2015-16 season.
He said it was necessary to plant winter grass because fielders struggled on dry, dormant summer grass when the same two countries met in a one-day international in August last year. “The players are used to sliding in to stop the ball, which on dormant turf you cannot do. That was the major consideration when switching to winter turf.”
South Africa’s batting is a concern, however, with AB de Villiers missing because of injury and several players falling to loose shots in Durban.
New Zealand have an advantage in terms of match practice after playing and winning two Tests in Zimbabwe before coming to South Africa.AGENCIES
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