Durban: The St George's Park pitch in Port Elizabeth, on which Australia has twice come from behind to achieve victory in low-scoring matches against England and New Zealand, is to be re-examined ahead of next Tuesday's World Cup semi-final at the stadium. CWC media liaison officer, Rodney Hartman, said on Tuesday that Hilbert Smit, chairman of the SA Cricket Groundsman's Association, and Brian Basson, the CWC Director of Cricket Operations, will travel to Port Elizabeth on Wednesday to oversee preparations for the March 18 semi-final.
"Prof Neil Tainton, a world-renowned Grassland Scientist and pitch consultant to CWC 2003, will not go immediately to Port Elizabeth but will play a role in association with his two colleagues in ensuring that the St George's Park wicket is conducive to great One-day International cricket for the semi-final," he said.
In a low scoring match on Tuesday, Australia was restricted to 208 for nine with fast bowler Shane Bond picking six for 23. But the defending champions hit back through Glenn McGrath (3 for 29) and Brett Lee (5 for 42) to skittle out New Zealand for 112.After the 96-run victory, Australian captain Ricky Ponting said the pitch was a better one than that was laid out for the England match nine days ago, although he seemed concerned about early dampness in the wicket. On March 2, Australia was reduced to 114 for seven before recovering through Michael Bevan and Andy Bichel to overhaul England's modest 204.
Ali Bacher, the World Cup chief, reportedly instructed Smit to travel from Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth to seek an improvement. Smit went there the next day and helped produce what Ponting on Tuesday described as an improvement.Bacher was of the view that the decision to ask Smit and Basson to revisit Port Elizabeth should not be seen as criticism of the Eastern Province Cricket Board or its ground staff.
"Eighteen months ago, St George's Park was in a sorry state but they have done a terrific job there in upgrading the stadium, the outfield and the pitch. The stadium is in great shape."We are now simply saying that we will do all in our power to ensure that the pitch in Port Elizabeth is befitting of great One-day International cricket as is envisaged in a World Cup semifinal", said Bacher. PTI