Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur on Friday criticized the pitches for the first two Tests against South Africa, saying they were not good enough for Test cricket.
With his team facing a series defeat after two days of the second Test at Newlands, Arthur said the quality of pitches had deteriorated in the ten years since he coached the South African team.
On the back of a century by captain Faf du Plessis, South Africa built a winning position, reaching 382 for six, a first innings lead of 205 runs. Du Plessis made a patient 103 and shared a fifth wicket stand of 156 with Temba Bavuma (75). Quinton de Kock made a breezy 55 not out late in the day to reinforce South Africa’s dominance.
Arthur acknowledged that the South African total did not back up his argument about the quality of the pitches but said he did not believe the pitches made for a fair contest.
“I am disappointed. I haven’t been back to South Africa in a cricketing capacity since 2010. The standard of the wickets at Centurion and here hasn’t been good enough for Test cricket,” he said.
He cited inconsistent bounce, with balls rearing out of cracks, which had led to seven stoppages for injuries to batsmen on Friday.
“I can understand it if it gets to day four or five because that’s what happens in Test cricket and so it should, but it shouldn’t make your first innings a lottery.”
Arthur said Du Plessis and Bavuma deserved credit for the way they had batted in the conditions and added that the extra pace of the South African bowlers had been a big factor in Pakistan being bowled out for 177 on the first day.
“The difference is that South Africa bowled at 145 (kilometres an hour) plus and we were at 135 today. Those 10 kilometres on a wicket like this make a significant difference.”
‘Challenging and tricky’
Bavuma said batting conditions had been “challenging and tricky but not impossible.”
He added: “You’ve got to make peace with the fact that you’re going to take a few (balls) on the body.”
Bavuma appeared to have been caught by Azhar Ali at first slip off Mohammad Abbas when he was on three. The on-field umpires gave a “soft” signal of “out” but asked for television umpire Sundaram Ravi to check whether there had been a clean catch. Ravi decided the ball had made contact with the ground while the catch was being taken.
“I wasn’t 100 percent sure, which I was why I stood at the time,” said Bavuma.
The incident was similar to one at a critical stage of the first Test in Centurion, also involving Azhar Ali, when Dean Elgar survived against Shaheen Shah Afridi after Wilson reversed the on-field decision.
Arthur was fined a demerit point after going into the match referee’s room and criticising Wilson at Centurion but he said Azhar himself had not been sure whether he had made a clean catch. “It was different from last week,” said Arthur.
Du Plessis, out for a pair during South Africa’s six-wicket win in the first Test in Centurion, showed patience and resolve in an innings lasting six minutes short of six hours. He faced 226 balls and hit 13 fours.
He gave a chance on 96 when Sarfraz Ahmed, the Pakistan captain and wicketkeeper, could not hold a faint glance down the leg side off Abbas.
Abbas bowled a probing line and length but had a largely luckless day, as did Mohammad Amir, who went past the edge of Du Plessis’ bat on several occasions.
Bavuma, who hit a solitary Test century against England three seasons ago, made his 13th half-century before being caught behind off left-armer Afridi, bowling around the wicket. Bavuma faced 162 balls and hit ten fours.
Afridi was the most expensive of the Pakistan bowlers, conceding 112 runs, but he picked up three of the four wickets that fell during the day, including that of Du Plessis on review after umpire Wilson failed to detect a faint edge.