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Monday, 18 October, 1999, 17:46 GMT
South African Test venues
The five matches in South Africa's Test series with England are being held at a number of imposing venues across the country.
The Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg
It is relatively new as a location for the Gauteng Cricket Board - formerly the Transvaal Cricket Board - with construction having started in 1955. A Test match was staged there the following year.
Despite having undergone a complete facelift since, it nonetheless retains much of its charm.
The imposing stands to the north and the south are offset by low-level viewing areas from side-on and a limited space for a lucky few on a grass bank in front of the players' dressing-rooms.
It also boasts one of the truest batting surfaces in world cricket.
The many developments that have seen the ground's transformation since South Africa's reintroduction to international cricket in 1991/92 - principally the North and South Pavlions - were capped in 1996 when the existing 30m high floodlight masts were replaced by five new masts, each 65m high, enabling the stadium to see its first day-night limited-overs international (against Zimbabwe on January 31 1997).
There is a fascinating collection of memorabilia in the pavilion, including bats signed by England's rebel tourists (by, among others, David Graveney and Mike Gatting) which are worth a visit.
The ground was used for rugby matches while the Ellis Park Rugby Stadium was being rebuilt. A rugby international between South Africa and South America was played here in 1980.
Records of note at The Wanderers:
St George's Park, Port Elizabeth
The pitches at the ground have changed completely in character over the past few years.
It used to be mandatory for captains to include two spinners in the side on one of the better batting surfaces. Now, with the square recently relaid, it favours the seamers.
The West Indies could not extend either of their innings into 40 overs last winter and were beaten inside three days. Allan Donald once took 7-84 (12-139 in the match) against India here. England beware.
Home of Eastern Province Cricket, the ground is perhaps best know for the Duck Pond stand, completed in 1993.
The top tiers offer not only a bird's eye view of the action, but also a picturesque backdrop which includes the sea.
This is the smallest, most intimate of the Test grounds in South Africa, making it ideal for spectators. The colourful atmosphere is made richer by the steel band that has become a feature of all international matches.
Perhaps a little too limited in the past, the band is even attempting to broaden its repertoire of offerings.
With the braais (South African for BBQs) just beyond the boundaries when matches are in progress, English grounds could learn a lot from St George's Park
Records of note at St George's Park:
It was, though, the only direction in which the home of Natal Cricket could go and what charm is sacrificed by impressive new stands is made up for by the increase in seating capacity which now touches a healthy 25,000.
If ever it gets too hot and muggy in the humid surrounds of Durban, spectators can nip out for a dip in the ocean, just a stone's throw from the gates.
Traditionally a batsman's paradise, with its firm and true surface, though the nature of the pitch is thought to change as the tide comes in and the water table rises, giving way to swing.
Allan Donald was once again to the fore here against India, with match figures of 9-65 in 1996.
The local Asian community adds considerable spice crowds, particularly when the tourists are from the subcontinent.
Records of note at Kingsmead:
Newlands, Cape Town
That the view of Table Mountain, or to be more precise, Devil's Peak, is not as complete as it once was takes nothing of the romance from this ground.
Sitting on the grass verge, square-on to the action, with the mountainous backdrop for scenery, is to be a truly privileged spectator.
A good wicket and the Mediterranean-like climate of the Cape Peninsula all but complete the picture for Newlands cricket ground.
There is one additional feature, however. Some love it; some hate it, but it is certainly a talking point.
The brewery which stands between Table Mountain and the ground is not just visible but washes the ground with a distinctive odour at certain times of the day.
Dating back to 1845, the ground is steeped in history and, up to South Africa's reintroduction to international cricket, it retained its sleepy feel.
Then, inevitably, came the redevelopment which saw stands erected and oak trees uprooted in the construction of a stadium.
Perhaps it is its location in the affluent suburbs of Cape Town, perhaps it is the backdrop, or perhaps it is the history or the ground itself, but Newlands remains a very special place for the cricket fan.
If there is one ground to visit in South Africa, this is it.
Records of note at Newlands:
Centurion Park, Centurion
As you would expect, it lacks in history and, if truth be known, it is the least charismatic of South Africa's Test grounds.
A grass bank offers some relief from the intimidating stands that tower over the cricketers, otherwise there is a purpose-built feel to the venue.
But there are benefits to spectators with excellent viewing facilities.
The floodlights are among the most effective and players are always grateful for the excellent practice facilities and the spacious dressing-rooms on offer.
In 1995, it became South Africa's eighth Test match ground when it hosted the first Test of the series against England, confirming its reputation as a good, bouncy wicket.
Graeme Hick's 141 remains the highest Test score at the ground.
Records of note at Centurion:
Links to other England on Tour stories are at the foot of the page.
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