Centurion:The Centurion pitch for the first Test between South Africa and India starting on December 16 will not be a trampoline, subject to the weather, the groundsman at Supersport Park, Hilbert Smith, has said. "It will have just a bit of bounce," Smith told ESPNcricinfo.
"But everything depends on the weather. If it stays hot, somewhere in the region of 34 degrees Celsius and the pitch dries out, then it will flatten out totally and then we will have a problem because we need some moisture to get bounce," Smith said.
South Africa have instructed Smith to prepare a track that will favour their pace attack. "I've been told to leave some grass on it, so there will be bounce. I've rolled some grass into the base for that," Smith said. He has to ensure a delicate balance between producing a pitch that will generate bounce and one that doesn't offer too much movement and the possibility of the match ending prematurely.
"If I leave too much grass on the pitch, there will be too much movement and then the match could be over in three days and we don't want that. If it ends in four days, that will be fine, but ideally, I would like it to go the full five days."
Smith has also been told to leave no room for turn, all but negating the role of the spinner, who will, particularly in the case of someone like Paul Harris, be used to contain.
However, bounce alone may be enough to excite the slow bowlers, particularly tall ones like Harris and Harbhajan Singh, according to former South African spinner Paul Adams. "Spinners just need the bounce to be able to deceive the batsmen," he said.
Smith said he has "done most of the Test pitch already" and, on Friday during the MTN40 final, it had quite a fair amount of grass on it, but he has had an interruption in his preparation.
The domestic limited-overs final was played six days before the Test. It meant that Smith could not work on the Test pitch for two days, Thursday and Friday.
The Test pitch, number five on the square, is sandwiched between the MTN40 final pitch, number six, and the pitch used for the other MTN40 games, number four.
"There will be a little bit of wear and tear on the Test pitch and the grass may come out a bit because of its position," Smith said. It's the first time Smith has had a domestic game played so soon before an international, and therefore he said he doesn't know what the effect will be on the Test pitch.
Luckily, the weather is expected to work to Smith's advantage. Although the mercury has topped 30 degrees Celsius for the past few days, it has rained on three of them.
Rain is forecast all day for Sunday and Monday while clearing on Tuesday and returning on Wednesday night. Thursday, the first day of the Test, is also expected to be overcast and wet.