In the last four years, we have seen plenty of Test matches ending inside half the time that was allotted for the game. However, the second Test between India and South Africa in Cape Town was on a whole different extreme, with the match getting completed in only 107 overs.
In the illustrious history of Test cricket, which turns 147 years old in March this year, no match was closed down this quickly. The track turned out to be quite challenging for the batters, with the cracks providing very hefty off-the-pitch movement to the seamers. The likes of Mohammed Siraj and Jasprit Bumrah cashed in on it brilliantly and helped India get over the line comfortably.
Mohammed Siraj’s magnificent six-wicket haul came in only nine overs, and South Africa were bowled out in only 23.2 overs for 55 runs, their lowest score since resuming international cricket in 1992. India, too, faced their share of struggle, having gotten bowled out for 153 runs, although they were at 153/4 at one stage.
Rohit Sharma attacks Indian pitch naysayers
However, skipper Rohit Sharma wasn’t holding his words after the match. In recent times, especially for the Test matches, which ended in a short period in India, critics have been very vocal about the dusty pitches provided, which assist the spinners aplenty. While mentioning that he doesn’t mind playing on such tracks, the Indian captain reckons everyone must not speak beyond their limits for such matches in India.
"I mean, we saw what happened in this match, how the pitch played and stuff like that. I honestly don't mind playing on pitches like this. As long as everyone keeps their mouth shut in India and don't talk too much about Indian pitches, honestly," Rohit told the reporters.
Mohammed Siraj’s magnificent six-wicket haul came in only nine overs, and South Africa were bowled out in only 23.2 overs for 55 runs, their lowest score since resuming international cricket in 1992 - Cricket Betting
With the pitch in Cape Town providing some scathing off-pitch movement, it also produced a few scary moments as both sides had great fast bowlers capable of bowling in the high 140s. On multiple occasions, the batters received some body blows and laboured through it. Besides a valiant 46-run knock from Virat Kohli and an other-worldly century from Aiden Markram against the run of play, no batter could sustain the wayward movement.
Rohit Sharma also went on to stress the point that providing such tracks on a fast-bowlers paradise is even more dangerous than a slow track assisting the spinners, as it could have some physical ramifications for the batters.
""When you are put up against, a challenge like that, you come and face it. That's what happens in India, but, in India on day one, if the pitch starts turning, people start talking about 'Puff of dust! A puff of dust!' There's so much crack here on the pitch. People are not looking at that," the skipper added.
Past criticisms of Indian pitches
Former English skipper Michael Vaughan and plenty of Australian experts during the Border Gavaskar Trophy between India and Australia last year were very vocal about the “unplayable conditions” that they were offered in the Asian country. While it could’ve been argued that the batters lacked the mettle to play in these challenging conditions, one thing no one could do was to keep the pitch discussions off the headlines.
The Cape Town track was made to assist the deadly fast bowling quartet of the home side, which consists of amazing talents like Kagiso Rabada, Nandre Burger, Lungi Ngidi and Marco Jansen. While the practice of making home pitches assist the hosts isn’t something new, the furore over conditions in Asia always grabbed greater headlines.
South Africa, not long ago, were involved in a similar situation in Australia. The Test between these sides at the Gabba ended in only two days and Proteas skipper Dean Elgar was critical of the conditions provided. The ICC later on deemed it to be a “below average” pitch, while similar instances in India resulted in the venue getting a poor rating.
Why does Cape Town Pitch deserve a poor rating?
The ICC can provide pitches one of these six ratings: Very Good, Good, Average, Below Average, Poor or Unfit. If a pitch is deemed ‘Below Average’ to ‘Unfit’, the host stadium will receive demerit points which will remain active for five years. When a host venue accumulates a total of five or more demerit points, it will lose its right to host international matches for 12 months.
At Cape Town, the variable bounce and uneven cracks caused the ball to spring up on occasions, not giving equal opportunity to teams to make runs or stay in the game - Cricket Betting
The criteria for a pitch to be rated poor, as per the ICC regulations, is - “That does not allow an even contest between bat and ball, either by favouring the batters too much, and not giving the bowlers (seam and spin) from either team sufficient opportunity to take wickets, or by favouring the bowlers too much (seam or spin), and not giving the batters from either team the opportunity to make runs."
The Cape Town venue saw plenty of that. There was no even contest between bat and ball, despite the pitch report suggesting plenty of runs. There was a nine millimeter of grass left behind by the curator, which favoured the seamers aplenty. The variable bounce and uneven cracks caused the ball to spring up on occasions, not giving equal opportunity to teams to make runs or stay in the game.
Braam Mong, the Newlands curator, has received plenty of backing from the host team, including former players like Dale Steyn, who questioned, “Why are we so afraid of cracks?” on X (Twitter). The uneven bounce is one facet which could put Newlands’ rating in trouble and be deemed poor, but as of now, there is a possibility it could be rated “Below Average”, which will be the best they can expect as per current circumstances.