Last weekend I ambled down to watch the opening game of the new cricket season at the Wanderers. The stadium itself looked like an old tart in need of a fresh coat of make-up and some loving care. The outfield was marked by large patches of naked earth. It appeared as though something had gone wrong with the spring treatment, but I was told it was all the fault of Cricket South Africa (CSA), which insisted that the ground be over-seeded for last year’s Twenty/20 World Cup in order to improve its appearance.
One of the first things all turf managers learn is that you interfere with nature at your peril.
Now, a year later, the Wanderers is struggling with the aftermath of a decision that was made for purely cosmetic purposes. It never ceases to amaze me how supplicant the provinces are before cricket’s central body. What has happened to their independence of thought and action?
Let us hope that the new regime is more tolerant of the requirements of its members.
CSA cannot be blamed for the shabby appearance of the stadium. One of the greatest pleasures of a new season was to be found in going to the Wanderers and finding everything in spanking good shape, as if the stadium couldn’t wait for the cricket to begin. As it is now, with the Aussies not due for six months, the philosophy of mañana seems to have overtaken the management of the country’s prime cricket venue.
The pitch, however, was superb. The Wanderers has always been known as the fastest pitch in the country, but it is years since I have seen one there with so much pace and carry. Throughout the four days of the Lions match against the Warriors, it offered something for the fast bowlers, and yet the spinners took away with them a good harvest of wickets. The result was an excellent cricket match. If Chris Scott can continue to produce pitches of this quality, some interesting cricket will be played this season at the Wanderers.
One of the features of good Wanderers pitches has been that good batsmen and bowlers could prosper but that poorer players would struggle, and so it was last weekend. Alviro Petersen made a couple of excellent centuries that should have moved him into the national team for the early-season matches. He has a sound defence based on good footwork back and forward as well as a range of technically pure attacking strokes. Last season he did not do well for the Lions due to lapses in concentration, but on the evidence of last weekend this is a weakness he seems to have overcome.
I was keen to see if the performances of two under-19 stars, Parnell and Vandiar, justified the expectations held for them. Neither did well enough to suggest they are ready for higher honours.
Both looked out of their depth at the crease, but allowance should be made for their inexperience of conditions that would have been alien to them.
Parnell showed some good pace with the ball, but it was difficult to see how he would get any wickets in the absence of the swing that is so essential for left-arm fast bowlers. His action is somewhat closed during his delivery stride, which militates against the in-swing that makes left-arm quickies difficult to play. He gave the impression of trying to bowl too fast, with the result that his accuracy failed to test the batsmen. Those anxious to hurry him into the one-day team need to make sure that he understands that he is far from the finished product.
I was interested in the bowling of Robin Peterson, whom I have always thought not quite up to it.
The last time I saw him bowl at the Wanderers, Brian Lara hit him for five sixes in one over. In the last year, however, he has begun to take wickets regularly enough to deserve greater scrutiny. One of the reasons is that he has developed a doosra that batsmen do not pick. In the Lions’ second innings he came on with the score at 173 for two and yet finished with five wickets for not much more than 50. His accuracy, due to a poor action, remains wanting, but he is worth bearing in mind as a wicket-taking spinner.
Both the two black fast bowlers for the Warriors, Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Sinethemba Mjekula, have pleasing actions, but neither made much of an impression in conditions that were ideal for fast bowling. Rather like Parnell, they seemed to bowl without a plan. Consequently they went without much reward for their efforts. I thought that the three local quickies, Nel, in particular, Kruger and Deacon, all had much more to offer than the Warriors’ pace attack, which is the main reason the Lions won the match.
It was a pity that no national selectors were there to watch Petersen bat. One of them made a cursory visit to the ground on Sunday morning, but clearly had other things on his mind. There seems to be a misapprehension that selectors are only chosen to watch the national team, preferably on away tours. This helps no one.
After the performances of the national one-day side in England, one would have thought the selectors had been ordered to purchase camping rights at all the grounds.
•Ray White is a former UCB president.