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Gibson defends state of SA pitches after Arthur’s comments

CAPE TOWN: South Africa head coach Ottis Gibson has issued a strong response to criticism that has been directed at the state of home Test pitches over the last 12 months.

“Test cricket has never been easy and batsmen have been taking shots to the body for decades on all sorts of surfaces,” Gibson said in an interview with a website on Sunday.

South Africa cruised to their seventh home series win in a row on Sunday morning when they beat Pakistan by nine wickets in the second Test here with Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur blasting the state of the Newlands pitch after play on day two, claiming it was not good enough to host Test cricket.

Despite Arthur’s criticism, no less than eight batsmen made scores of 50 or more while South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis, who will miss the final Test at Johannesburg due to an ICC suspension for slow over rate, top-scored with a gritty, patient 103.

Arthur’s concern centred over uneven bounce making life difficult for batters from as early as day one, and while Gibson acknowledged that the bounce was unpredictable, he was still somewhat puzzled by Arthur’s comments.

“I don’t comment on other people’s comments, but to make a comment like that when your team has only got four wickets on the day and a guy has scored a hundred seems a little bit strange,” Gibson said. “Mickey and I go way back to our days in Kimberley and we get on very well. I guess when you’re behind the eight-ball in a game like he was then you sort of want to deflect away from your team and that’s the way to do it.”

Arthur’s comments came on a day where Pakistan had taken just four wickets as du Plessis and Temba Bavuma (75) combined for a stand of 156.

“Test cricket has always been that if you are prepared to bat long and stick it out and show some resilience, then you will score runs and earn the runs you score,” Gibson added. “Yes, the wicket was a little bit uneven and I’m not going to deny that, but Faf showed that you can still bat on it.

“I don’t really subscribe to the fact that it was the worst pitch you’ve ever seen. We were in Sri Lanka not long ago [South Africa lost 2-0] and I can tell you that they were a lot worse than this, in my opinion.”

Arthur, meanwhile, conceded the Pakistan batsmen were unable to cope with the ‘tough’ conditions in the first two Tests since most of them had never played in South Africa before.

“I think we have to be mindful of the conditions here in South Africa. I think they are the most difficult conditions for any batsmen in the world to bat. There has been a lot of grass and there has been a lot of bounce and we have batted first twice in as many matches against the world’s best bowling unit,” Arthur told a website. “They have attacked us mercilessly and given us no room to get away. We have genuinely been bowled out by a very good bowling unit.

“But, we cannot blame the conditions in the UAE. We have got to get more consistent with our batting unit, which I believe is growing. It will get better. We have got some very good youngsters who we need to develop. And, of course, Asad Shafiq and Azhar Ali. We need them to tick on and develop the younger players by taking the senior players’ role.

Commenting on Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed’s criticism of his bowlers for lacking in pace during the Cape Town Test, Arthur said: “We have tried to manage our bowlers through a tough workload. I think the runs that South Africa got on this pitch at Newlands were too many and our bowlers would be the first ones to say that. But, I certainly can’t fault their attitude and will to get the game done for us.

“The South African bowlers have been bowling incredibly quick and they keep coming at you. That’s what we have tried to done with our bowlers. And, the reason that we have been on a fitness run is that our bowlers can be fitter and stronger and have the same impact in the comeback spells as they have in their first spells. This is still work in progress for us.”

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