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South Africa promise run-friendly tracks

South Africa promise run-friendly tracks

Spectators and viewers want to see runs so we act accordingly, says Centurion curator.

Johannesburg: Champions Trophy bowlers are going to sweat for wickets if the plans of the Wanderers and Centurion Park groundsmen come to fruition.

Chris Scott and Hilbert Smit boast more than 60 years experience between them and they told AFP the five pitches set for the two-week tournament from September 22 are run-friendly.

"Spectators and viewers want to see runs so we act accordingly. I have prepared three pitches and they favour the batsmen," said Centurion head groundsman Smit.

Wanderers boast four 'TV' pitches, but wear and tear from the Indian Premier League (IPL) means Scott can use only two for the mini-World Cup won by Australia when last staged three years ago in India.

The IPL moved from its traditional base this year because of insufficient security to handle the Twenty20 tournament and general elections and Wanderers and Centurion were used extensively.

Pakistan was chosen to stage the Champions Trophy last year, but security concerns there and worries about wet weather in Sri Lanka led to South Africa becoming belated hosts.

Wanderers, in a plush Johannesburg suburb and Centurion, 30 kilometres north just off the highway to Pretoria, are situated in the heart of the 1,800-metre Highveld, which is experiencing dry, warm spring conditions.

Although the 20,000-capacity Centurion Park can accommodate 10,000 fewer spectators than Wanderers, it will stage most of the top fixtures, including the showdown of fierce rivals India and Pakistan and the October 5 final.

Cricket South Africa president Mtutuzeli Nyoka defended a move which many local observers believe was retaliation for Wanderers' owners publicly slamming the national body over its handling of the IPL extravaganza.

"There is more than one international venue on the Highveld and Centurion has received accolades from all over the world," claimed Nyoka, who was at the heart of a dispute settled only after months of harsh rhetoric.

International Cricket Council general manager and former South Africa wicketkeeper Dave Richardson conceded he probably would have chosen Wanderers for the final because of its greater capacity.

"But we are led by the host country and Wanderers and Centurion are world class venues," he stressed during the launch of a tournament offering the winners a two-million-dollar cheque.

first published:September 16, 2009, 13:41 IST