EVERY cricket team that tours India expects to encounter dust bowl pitches and a trial by spin.
The Proteas Women’s squad would certainly have been preparing for a similar onslaught in the current one-day international series against the World Cup runners-up.
Their preceding series against Pakistan played on a slow Kingsmead surface in Durban was viewed as a “blessing in disguise” and ideal preparation for the Indian tour. However, since arriving in Lucknow, the Proteas have instead been caught unawares.
The Erkana Stadium is a relatively new international venue having hosted just one Test, three ODIs and four T20Is in its short history prior to hosting these women’s ODI and T20I series conducted in a bio-secure environment.
The Proteas men’s team were meant to face off against Virat Kohli’s India side last year in an ODI series, but it was cancelled due to Covid-19. Furthermore, due to the effects of Covid-19 there has obviously not been much domestic cricket played there either over the past 12 months, resulting in the pitch not suffering the traditional wear and tear.
This has created a surface that is fresh and full of pace and bounce as was witnessed in the first two matches.
Furthermore, due to the early start (9am local time) the pitch has been even livelier, particularly in the first innings of the match.
In the series opener, it was South Africa’s pace bowlers that enjoyed the best of the conditions with the leader of the attack, Shabnim Ismail, in particular thriving on the surface.
The second ODI just two days later was in complete contrast with India’s fast bowlers now relishing the opportunity of having a first crack.
Veteran seamer Jhulan Goswami was outstanding as she was able to extract extra bounce due to her superior height, while the recalled Mansi Joshi was excellent too.
“The wickets have been really good. I don’t think the facility here has had much game time (because of Covid-19) and the wicket has been freshly prepared,” Proteas batter Mignon du Preez said ahead of today’s third ODI.
“We were quite surprised with the amount of pace and bounce in the wicket.
“From a bowling point of view, normally our seamers would be frustrated because they know when they get to India the pitches are going to turn a lot.
“Even from an Indian point of view, we are used to their spinners turning the ball, but in fact over the last couple of games we haven’t seen that amount of turn as when they played in South Africa.
“It is something we need to be cautious of because we tend to focus a lot on their spinners, but in the last two games it’s actually been seam that’s taking the wickets.
“I think we as batters just need to be a bit more alert when the seamers come back on.
“Normally you relax when there is a bit of pace on the ball, but we need to stay focused.”