Port Elizabeth: Pitch experts are promising a run-feast during Tuesday’s World Cup semi-final between Australia and Sri Lanka, after working feverishly to modify the notoriously slow track at St George’s Park.
“It will be a belter,” said Hilbert Smit, head of South Africa’s Groundsmen’s Association, who flew down on a rescue mission to help St George’s park groundsman Adrian Carter prepare the pitch.
Smit was accompanied by Neil Tainton, who works for the World Cup committee and is responsible for maintaining pitches at all venues.
Carter has come under criticism for preparing slow-paced pitches during the World Cup that resulted in low-scoring matches.
In the last match on March 11, defending champion Australia scored 208 runs in 50 overs before bowling New Zealand out for 112.
Commentators have complained that if the state of affairs continues, the Australia-Sri Lanka game will turn into a boring contest where the ball will refuse to come on to the batsmen.
Australian skipper Ricky Ponting was critical of the pitch, saying the semi-final could be spoiled as a spectacle, “unless the wicket is a lot better than it has been for the last couple of games”.
“Let’s hope it is and lets hope it’s a good, high-scoring game of one-day cricket.”
One advantage for the Australians is that they’ve played twice at Port Elizabeth, escaping both times with wins over England and New Zealand.
However, most pundits believe the existing Port Elizabeth pitch will favour Sri Lanka because it may turn and assist the Muttiah Muralidharan.
Carter defended his work, saying all he wanted was to produce a consistent pitch.
“I didn’t want a ball that is going to roll or take off on a batsman’s head. If it is consistent but on the slower side, so be it,” he said.
But Smit, Carter and Tainton say they may have fixed the problem of slowness. “If we have got this right we should get a match with 280-300 runs by the team batting first,” said Tainton.