It’s more green than ethically-sourced, home-grown wheatgrass, but Centurion curator Hilbert Smit says Australia need not worry about the pitch for the first Test against South Africa.
Some members of the Australian camp were in disbelief when they trained at the venue last week and couldn’t find anything closely resembling a cricket pitch in the middle.
Smit told AAP that while heavy rain threw his schedule out a little bit, the green pitch will be cut back and ready on Wednesday for a five-day contest.
“We had a lot of people here last week saying ‘where is the pitch?! What about these blokes, they haven’t even started preparing it!’,” Smit said.
“The pitch has been pre-prepared if you want to put it that way. It’s been put on hold, and the grass has come back and grown nicely.
“We’re right up to where we want to be; nothing is holding us back. The rain slows up the process of preparing the pitch, but we’ve been preparing this pitch for more than a month.”
Proteas coach Russell Domingo has publicly asked for pace-friendly pitches throughout the three-Test series, which will feature two of the world’s finest pace attacks.
“I don’t think you have to be a rocket scientist to say it’s going to have some pretty good bounce and carry,” Australian wicketkeeper Brad Haddin said of the centre strip.
But with days four and five of the Test falling on the weekend when big crowds could attend, Domingo isn’t the only Cricket South Africa employee Smit has to satisfy.
“In this country, everyone pushes us to go as long as possible in a Test,” he said.
“We’ve tried to get a decent cricket pitch. It’s two of the world’s best sides, so you don’t want one session to favour one team so much it decides the game.”
Centurion is South Africa’s fortress.
In 18 Tests there, they have lost just once – a highly controversial defeat to England in 2000 in which both sides forfeited an innings at the suggestion of then Proteas skipper Hansie Cronje.
Smit suggested he could not take credit for the home team’s incredible record.
“It’s not like we’re preparing them a pitch that suits all the time,” he said.
“They’ve played on flat decks, on friendly decks, lots of different decks and they’ve always won.
“It’s a question we’ve all been asking, and nobody has an answer yet.”