South African pitches come under fire from coach, players

Former South African player and coach and current coach of Pakistan, Mickey Arthur, has criticised the pitches in his home nation, saying they ‘haven’t been good enough for Test cricket’. The criticism comes after a low scoring first Test at Centurion, in which 15 wickets fell on the first day, the match concluded by tea on day 3 and the highest team score was 223.

According to Arthur, the ‘wickets have got significantly worse since I coached South Africa in 2010’. Pitches in the country have also drawn the ire of players themselves, though that criticism has been a little more tempered than that of the former coach. South African opener Dean Elgar stated that his country was the ‘hardest place in the world to be an opener’, while Tenda Bavuma, who made 75 in the first innings of the second test at Cape Town, made mention of the inconsistency of the pitch; ‘as a batter, you’ve got to make peace with the fact that you’re going to get a few blows on the body’. 

South Africa did manage 431 in their first innings in Cape Town, but the inconsistency of the pitch was nevertheless fairly clear, and there was no doubt an element of luck involved in the play - just ask Hashim Amla, who was bowled off a Mohammad Abbas delivery which moved off the seam an erroneous amount to take out the leg stump of the South African star. 

With Test pitches invariably comes significant scrutiny, though often it’s a result of them being too lifeless and difficult to take wickets. Pitches like those in South Africa this series are certainly more entertaining to watch, with the low scores ensuring there is little chance of those dreaded games which are clearly headed for a draw after just a day or two of play. The problem, however, with inconsistent pitches such as these - aside for the propensity for them to cause injury - is that there is a lot more luck involved in a game which should be determined largely by skill. Certain batsmen - looking at you Hashim Amla - can count themselves unlucky for the way they were dismissed, though if there is one solace to be taken, it’s that the Cape Town Test, though incomplete at the time of this article, will be won by South Africa - the deserved winner.

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