It’s Gqeberha, with a hard click at the start and a guttural “gha” at the end, that’s the venue for the last dance of the South African summer. Where, you ask? The place with the oldest cricket ground in the country but the newest name.
Formerly known as Port Elizabeth, the city was renamed last year, but not much else has changed. It’s still about life in the slow lane in this part of the country, with the whistling of a strong wind for company. It’s been blowing fiercely in the lead up to the match, almost enough to match the fury within the Bangladesh camp.
South Africa can probably already call this Test season a success after a home series win against India and a drawn series in New Zealand but will not want to slip up after seizing the advantage in Durban. Speaking of, they’ve already had one accident this week. Dean Elgar fell when getting out of the shower a few days ago and hit his head badly enough to require stitches. The cut is above his right eye, roughly where his helmet might sit, but he batted on the eve of the match and “seems to be okay”, to lead the side.
Even with an under-strength squad – five first-choice South Africa players are at the IPL – Elgar has managed to establish his style of play. “Ruthless,” was how he described it in Durban and he will want nothing less than to seal a series sweep.
South Africa WWLWW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
Simon Harmer surged back onto the international scene with a four-for in his first Test innings and showed the progress he has made as an attacking bowler since last playing Tests in 2015. He was humble in his success and said the return did not necessarily prove his worth but after finishing the match with seven wickets may have adjusted that opinion. Still, Harmer remains a support act to Keshav Maharaj, especially as South Africa seldom play two spinners in a Test XI and a big performance on his former home ground could go a long way to ensuring he is part of the squad that tours England this winter, and maybe even stakes a claim for the lone spinner spot, on occasion.
South Africa are unlikely to make any changes to the batting line-up but may look at one in the bowling department. Despite being the most experienced member of the pace pack, Duanne Olivier has failed to set the stage alight and could be benched for Lutho Sipamla, who is from this city and played his early years of domestic cricket here.
South Africa (probable): 1 Dean Elgar (capt), 2 Sarel Erwee, 3 Keegan Petersen, 4 Ryan Rickleton, 5 Temba Bavuma, 6 Kyle Verreynne (wk), 7 Wiaan Mulder 8 Keshav Maharaj, 9 Simon Harmer, 10 Lizaad Williams 11 Lutho Sipamla
Bangladesh (probable): 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Mahmudul Hasan Joy, 3 Najmul Hossain Shanto, 4 Mominul Haque (capt), 5 Mushfiqur Rahim, 6 Yasir Ali, 7 Litton Das (wk), 8 Mehidy Hasan Miraz, 9 Abu Jayed/Shohidul Islam, 10 Khaled Hossain, 11 Ebadot Hossain
Pitch and conditions
Never mind the surface – which had a healthy grass covering two days before the Test match but will get a trim before the first ball – it’s the air that’s a major factor in Gqeberha. Westerly Winds of around 50kph have been blowing in the lead-up to the match. That’s the drying wind, which usually means it will be good for batting, but the direction will change from the first day of the match, bringing moisture but, with autumn temperatures hovering in the low 20 C, there’s unlikely to be the humidity for swing. Rain is forecast for the first three days, with the third day the most likely to be severely affected. There’s an 80% chance of showers on Sunday but by early next week, conditions are expected to clear so this Test could go the distance.
Stats and trivia
“The wind plays a massive factor here at St George’s. If the wind is coming over the scoreboard, they call it the swing wind. And it might assist the bowlers. If the wind comes through the gap between the change room and the stand, it’s a swirling wind, which plays a massive part with the ball when it goes up in the air and with catching. The wind is also a factor with batters because it tends to blow you a bit over your front foot and gets you to go across the ball a little bit.”
South Africa captain Dean Elgar explains there’s more to the Gqeberha wind than just figuring out which bowler has to run into it.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent
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