The Durban, Kingsmead has come under scrutiny after eight of nine sessions in South Africa’s ongoing Test against New Zealand were washed away over three days, making the chance of a result, other than a draw, implausible. On day three and four, no play took place, despite there being no rain early on the third morning because soft patches on the recently relaid outfield were deemed unsafe for play.
Both days saw a similar sequence of events: inspection at midday and 2 pm an abandonment by 2.20 pm. The ground staffs were instructed not to use any artificial means of drying the outfield and no one was allowed on the surface at any time on both days.
On Sunday morning the third day of the Test- after the ground had received 66 mm of rain, the super stopper was made to stop operating for fear it would do further damage to the soft patches. The umpires chose to leave the drying process to natural elements. Bright sunshine on Sunday and heavy winds of up to 70 kph, albeit under overcast skies on Monday, were considered sufficient to firm up the patches. Conditions improved with each inspection, but not enough for play to take place.
Several other methods were also unused. To dry the outfield neither dryers nor blowers were not used because the outfield was soft underfoot, not wet. Even using sawdust any earlier would prevent the natural elements from hardening the patches.
In July flash flooding was reported throughout July and rain was also forecast for the second day of the match. Considering these factors, Kingsmead could have made efforts to produce more covers than ones they currently have which protect the square. Buying enough covers for the entire outfield would cost estimated R400,000 an amount franchisees struggle to raise, but covers could have been borrowed from clubs in the area.
The fallout from this match means that Kingsmead will continue to struggle to maintain its reputation as one of South Africa’s premier grounds. In 2014 due to poor crowd attendances saw the Boxing Day Test moved in 2014 and again this year to St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth. Numbers during the ongoing match would not have done boosted the perception. An average of 2500 people were in attendance on days one and two, with numbers dwindling for the rest of the match. On Sunday, people were coming to the ground even after the play called off .
Players were also not spotted at the ground. The ACSU regulations stipulate that once they arrive at the ground they cannot leave until the play is called off. For that reason, South Africa did not arrive at the ground on Sunday, but New Zealand turned up later in the day for a net session. Both teams were on the ground they cannot leave until the play is called off. For that reason, South Africa did not arrive at the ground on Sunday, but New Zealand turned up later in the day for a net session. Both teams were at the ground on Monday. Like the groundstaff, they were not allowed on the outfield. Faf du Plessis and Russell Domingo wandered over briefly before being instructed off.
Match referee Andy Pycroft refused to comment on the state of the ground but will rate the outfield at the end of the match, at which time the ICC may issue a statement. Until then, Durban remains on tenterhooks as it fights for its place among the country’s elite venues