A greener Gabba pitch than anyone could remember seeing before at Test level had the bowlers lining up like delivery vans outside an online store warehouse on Saturday, but Proteas top-scorer Kyle Verreynne said it was actually a good batting wicket in Brisbane on the first day of the first Test against Australia.
Sadly his colleagues did not enjoy the conditions as much as Verreynne, who scored a counter-attacking 64 off 96 balls, as only Temba Bavuma (38) made more than 10 as South Africa were bundled out for just 152.
Australia’s batsmen had problems too as they slipped to 27/3, but Travis Head, with a tremendous run-a-ball 78 not out, and Steven Smith (36) took them to 145/5 at stumps.
While the pitch has provided seam movement, it has not been excessive and not even particularly consistent. But batsmen were also troubled by some inconsistent bounce and the sharp turn and bounce obtained by Australian spinner Nathan Lyon, who took 3/14 in eight overs.
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“I think it’s a really good batting pitch to be honest,” Verreynne said, “and your normal game-plans are good on it. When you see it being so green, you expect the pitch to do so much.
“But it did a lot less than we thought it would. It’s not so soft even with such a thick grass layer, it’s quite firm and there is good pace and bounce.
“The aggressive approach worked for Travis Head and myself, but Steven Smith took his time and batted very nicely too,” Verreynne said.
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It was the sort of pitch where being able to land the ball on the proverbial handkerchief on a good length would bring reward. The Proteas pacemen were initially able to do that, inspired by David Warner being dismissed on the first ball of the innings as Kagiso Rabada fired in a pinpoint short ball and Khaya Zondo took a phenomenal catch at short-leg. But as soon as the left-handed Head began shifting the momentum and putting the bowlers under pressure, the visitors’ attack turned ragged for a vital hour late in the day.
“After you’re bowled out for just 152, it’s difficult to get the energies up. So getting a wicket first ball was a massive moment, especially a big player like Warner,” wicketkeeper Verreynne said.
“That got the adrenaline going and our energy was really up for the next 10 overs or so. But unfortunately we fell away a bit after that.
“We’re probably still a bit behind in the game, but two late wickets did bring us back in a bit, they’ve given us a bit of a window. But it would have been nice to get a couple more wickets when we had them 27/3.
“After lunch, the pitch picked up a bit more pace and Anrich Nortje was getting it through nicely. Our fast bowlers definitely have a bit left in the tank and hopefully they can make an impact in the morning,” Verreynne said.