'Clever cricket' will tame Nassau pitch, says Klaasen - Cricket News | Cricket Updates | Match Report


Thursday, June 6, 2024

'Clever cricket' will tame Nassau pitch, says Klaasen

 Nortje picked up 4 for 7 in South Africa's tournament opener in New York.

Nortje picked up 4 for 7 in South Africa's tournament opener in New York. © AFP

So far Anrich Nortje's has been the lone voice of approval for the Nassau County pitch. That's perhaps unsurprising for someone whose 4/7 against Sri Lanka at the ground on Monday were the most economical four-over figures in all 2,635 men's T20Is then played. Uganda's Frank Nsubuga knocked the South African off that perch by claiming 2/4 against Papua New Guinea in Providence on Thursday.

"There's more in the pitch for the bowlers and I don't see anything wrong with that," Nortje told a press conference after Monday's match. "When it's flat people want to see sixes, so the wheel should turn somewhere."

That's easy for Nortje to say. He didn't have to bat on the surface. Heinrich Klaasen wasn't as fortunate. "I think the pitch has been a little bit too much on the bowlers' side, but that's part of the game," Klaasen told a press conference on Thursday. "Sometimes you get pitches that are too flat, and now as a batter you need to suck it up and hopefully we get a better pitch in the next game. It's about getting the balance right.

"In the IPL no-one complained about 270 playing 270. Now the bowlers are getting conditions in their favour. It's not always going to be a 200 pitch, and you have to play smarter cricket to get over the line. We don't mind if the bowlers have got something that makes for good, entertaining cricket, and you have to use your cricket brain. It's about getting the balance right. It shouldn't be too flat or too bowler-friendly."

Erratic bounce has been the main complaint, and the slow outfield isn't popular. To start building a 34,000-seater modular stadium in the depths of winter and finish it in 100 days - in time for it to star in eight matches at the men's T20 World Cup - was no mean feat. But the surfaces, which were grown in Australia, finished in Florida and dropped into the middle of a site of 930-acre Eisenhower Park, have taken the shine off what was, until Monday, a triumph of planning, design and construction.

The scores from the only warm-up match played at Nassau before Monday didn't raise alarms. India made 182/5 and held Bangladesh to a reply of 122/9 - hardly an outrage considering the Indians' quality attack. "We were quite happy with how things went," Rohit Sharma said after the match. "We pretty much got what we wanted from the game."

But the variable bounce was already apparent, and on Monday the Lankans were bowled out for their record low total of 77. South Africa needed 16.2 overs to overhaul the tiny target. The match was played on a strip on the edge of the table of four pitches. India's game against Ireland on Wednesday was staged on the pitch on the other edge of the table - the same surface that was used in their warm-up game. The Irish were dismissed for 96 and India won in 12.2 overs. Rohit was hit on the biceps and had to retire hurt and Rishabh Pant took a blow to the elbow but soldiered on. India have reportedly decided against lodging an official complaint.

The focus on Nassau is sharpened by the fact that international cricket's blue riband fixture, India versus Pakistan, will be hosted there on Sunday. It also doesn't help that the tournament is being played in the shadow of the mountain of runs scored in this year's IPL. Eight of the top 10 totals made in the 17 editions of the competition were scored in 2024. An average of 17.03 sixes were hit per match, more than in any other year.

Klaasen did his bit to make that happen, hitting 38 sixes to finish joint second on that list with Virat Kohli behind Abhishek Sharma's 42. Klaasen's IPL strike rate was 171.07, and he scored fewer runs than the number of balls he faced only four times in 15 innings.

On Monday, Klaasen helped take South Africa to victory with a laboured unbeaten 19 off 22; a strike rate of 86.36. He hit one each of the six fours and six sixes seen in the match. "We've got experience playing in these types of conditions, so we need to go back into the memory bank and take some responsibility and realise it might not be a pitch where we can just dig in and hit boundaries," Klaasen said.

Whether that lesson has been learnt will be seen on Saturday, when South Africa return to Nassau to play the Netherlands - who beat them in the 2022 T20 World Cup and in last year's ODI version. Nortje might need to be in his best form to halt the trend.

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