Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur hit out at the Newlands pitch today, saying it was not good enough for Test cricket.
It was a surprise to hear Arthur grumbling so much given that it was the South African batsmen who had to weather several blows to the body, and ignore numerous plays-and-misses and close shaves, on today’s second day of the second Test in Cape Town.
But given the state of the match, with South Africa 382 for six and already 205 runs ahead on the first innings, it is perhaps understandable that Arthur, who also coached South Africa from 2005/6 to 2009/10, should wish to deflect from his team’s parlous position, which leaves them on the brink of losing the series.
“I have to say I’m disappointed by the standard of the pitches, they’re not good enough for Test cricket, they’re too inconsistent. South Africa are always going to ask for bounce and pace against sub-continent teams here, but they should not make the first innings a lottery and the difference in scores is because South Africa are bowling at 145km/h on it and we’re only at 135.
“These pitches have been very weighted in favour of the bowlers. We’ve had about seven stoppages on day two due to the ball hitting cracks and then the batsman, and the uneven bounce makes it very difficult. I believe in a good contest but these pitches have been significantly worse than when I was last here,” Arthur said after the close of play today.
Temba Bavuma, South Africa’s chief hero of the second day alongside centurion Faf du Plessis after scoring a tenacious 75 in nearly four hours at the crease, said although the pitch was tough, it could not be called dangerous.
“It was challenging, a tricky pitch and compared to Centurion, any deviation was quicker which made it hard to adjust. But it wasn’t impossible and I wouldn’t call it dangerous, Faf and I are both still alive. As a batsman, you just have to try and embrace it, you need to make peace that you’re going to take a few on the body.
“It was a mammoth innings from Faf, he took more blows to the body and had more balls whizzing past his helmet, but he’s still just focused on the next delivery. His calming influence is his biggest trait, we shared game-plans and we just tried to stay positive and remind ourselves to put away the bad ball. The pitch also reacts more to the new ball,” Bavuma said.
Despite South Africa’s lead already being greater than any total Pakistan have made in the Test series thus far, Arthur said he believed his team could still save the series.
“We’ve been significantly outplayed, it’s not like Centurion where we were 100 for one and missed an opportunity. We haven’t played well enough yet here, but I want to see us fight real hard from here, especially with the bat. If we can get the game into a fourth day then we’re definitely in it, you could see in the last couple of overs how much turn there was for Yasir Shah.
“We want to take the game deep because the pitch is fairly dry. But you need enough first-innings runs to bring your spinner into it, but now we have to get the game there in the second innings. It’s just the extra bounce that has exposed our techniques a bit. But after three months in the UAE where the ball doesn’t get higher than stump-height, it’s tough,” Arthur said.