Big blow for Australian Test preparations in South Africa
Unrelenting, heavy rain in Potchefstroom has thrown Australia’s preparations for the three-Test series against South Africa into chaos, forcing the abandonment of a proposed warm-up game and the team to relocate to Johannesburg in search of training options.
Nine days before the opening Test of the series at Centurion (near Johannesburg), the Australians have been left to contemplate preparations without the prospect of a first-class fixture and with practice largely restricted to indoor facilities.
Rain has been a constant accompaniment since the squad assembled in Potchefstroom, two hours’ drive from Johannesburg, last week, but a non-stop downpour set in around 3am this morning (Monday) and had not relented when the team made its exodus more than 10 hours later.
Conditions at Senwes Park, where a four-day match against a South African Invitational XI was due to begin on Wednesday, are so waterlogged that it is impossible to imagine any play being possible even if the rain was to stop.
Which the weather forecast indicates is unlikely to happen for the coming week.
“Unfortunately, with persistent heavy rain forecast for Potchefstroom we have had to look at alternative arrangements to ensure the team gets the best preparation possible ahead of the first Test,” team manager Gavin Dovey said today.
“Cricket South Africa (CSA) have been very accommodating in assisting us relocate to Johannesburg, providing us with more flexibility with our training options, specifically adequate indoor training facilities to counter any bad weather.”
While the facilities at the sprawling campus of North-West University in Potchefstroom are ideal for fair weather, outdoor training exercises the indoor training centre at Senwes Park is below the standard required to prepare for such an important Test series.
By relocating to Johannesburg, the Australian team brainstrust hopes to be able to make use of indoor facilities at either Super Sport Park at Centurion (where training will be scheduled for tomorrow) or at alternative venues in the Johannesburg area.
Officials spent much of this morning in urgent consultation with Cricket South Africa which was working to provide alternative arrangements for the Australian team.
Officials from CSA and Cricket Australia continue to work to see if an alternative warm-up fixture, even a one or two-day game to help the tourists acclimatise, can feasibly be organised at such short notice.
Such is the compacted nature of current Test and limited-overs touring schedules, the days of international teams being afforded three or four first-class fixtures to prepare for a Test series are long gone.
Since a bulk of Australia’s 15-man touring party assembled in Potchefstroom last week only one centre wicket practice session – conducted for more than two hours yesterday – has been possible due to the weather which locals claim is unseasonal for February.
But Australian pace bowler Mitchell Johnson said the team had no option but to make the most of the contingency plans, and ensure whatever preparation opportunities become available are utilised to the maximum.
“We just have to get as much as we can out of it, and make the most of it,” Johnson said before the team bus hit the road for Johannesburg.
“Yesterday we had a good session outdoors on a centre wicket, which you don't normally get.
“So it was quite good to get out there and have a good roll in the middle.
“It is playing havoc at the moment, the weather but we have to do what we can.”
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The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia
First Posted 03 February, 2014 9:18PM AEST