The last ball of the first test between South Africa and New Zealand at Kingsmead was bowled long enough before the match was abandoned yesterday for Mike Hesson to forget who his team were playing against.
“We gathered a lot of information about the Sri Lankan batsmen,” New Zealand coach Hesson said – and stopped as his assertion was met by incredulity.
“Sri Lankan did I say . . . ? Nah . . . we gathered loads from the TV the last few days.”
No doubt from watching Sri Lanka playing Australia in Colombo on Sunday.
What else were the Kiwis and the Saffers to do while they waited for Kingsmead’s outfield to dry after it was waterlogged by the 65mm of rain that fell on Saturday night?
By the time the match was put out if its misery, 45 minutes before the planned start of 10am yesterday, more than three days – or 11 sessions – of play had been lost.
Of the 450 scheduled overs only 99.4 were bowled.
What became the last ball, delivered by Vernon Philander and defended by Ross Taylor, was sent down five minutes before lunch on Saturday.
In a dozen of those overs Philander and Dale Steyn had reduced the visitors to 15/2 in reply to SA’s first innings of 263.
But what promised to be a compelling contest was snuffed out first by bad light and then by Saturday’s rain.
“We were dying to get out there,” SA captain Faf du Plessis said.
Even so, Du Plessis understood why the match had been marooned: “It’s up to the umpires to [assess] whether the ground is safe.
“From our perspective we wanted to play.
“The general feeling was that the ground was unsafe. “Quite a few areas were a bit muddy and a bit loose underfoot.
“[The umpires] are very worried that if you were to sprint or make sudden movements on it you could get badly injured, so they have to deal with these things and we respect the decision.”
Hesson was on the same page: “Both teams were very keen to play, but we also respect that umpires are responsible for ground, weather and light.”
Kingsmead’s outfield was bare of grass in several places, thanks to a decompacting process completed on July 1.
The work, done at Cricket SA’s (CSA) insistence, was improperly carried out – the digging was too deep – and finished too late for the outfield to recover properly.
This has raised the alarm about Saturday’s second test at Centurion, where the outfield has also been decompacted.
“The players are used to sliding in to stop the ball, which on dormant turf you cannot do,” groundsman Rudolph du Preez said yesterday.
“That was the major consideration when switching to winter turf instead of staying on dormant summer turf.”
The grass won’t be greener on the other side of the country. But it seems more of it has been planted there than in Durban.