After a sleeping beauty in Chennai and a sporting pitch in Ahmedabad, and the result going rather emphatically in South Africa's favour, it was always certain the Green Park would be a dust bowl. Even with this in mind, the two sets of players who came to the ground were rather taken back by what they were faced with.
When the wind blew across the ground, dust visibly flew off the surface of the pitch, and there's still two days to go for the start of the final Test. There are cracks visible on the surface and there's little doubt this pitch will break up, it's only a question of how quickly this will happen.
Graeme Smith was the first of the two captains to have a look at the pitch, when his team arrived for practice in the morning. Mickey Arthur, the South African coach, who had made it out to the middle a little before his team, was not particularly impressed by what he saw and actually had a chat to Smith, asking him to take a deep breath and relax, warning him not to be too perturbed by what he saw.
When the Indians showed up in the afternoon for practice, the situation was not too different. Gary Kirsten, who arrived well before the team did, inspected the pitch, and though he did not make any comments to media on what he thought, it is learnt that even he was taken aback, and did not remember when last – if ever – he had seen a first-day pitch that looked so worn.
Anil Kumble then came and had a look, along with Chotelal, the curator, and observing the interaction between the two, it appeared that Kumble was not unhappy with what he saw.
While the pitch here has largely been a slow turner, there was one instance when things were different. In 1983 the groundsman experimented with leaving some grass on the pitch and a rampant West Indian attack led by Malcolm Marshall routed India by an innings. The curator expectedly came in for sharp criticism and ever since there has been no live grass on the pitch here.
This time around, though, it is difficult to predict with any degree of certainty what the pitch will do, as matches are not usually staged here at this time of the year. The extreme heat combined with the lack of live grass on the pitch mean that the cracks that are already in evidence could widen very early in the game.
The effort has been to create a pitch with low bounce, with the ball coming through around knee height, on which India's batsmen should thrive, but at the same time offer some assistance to the spinners. However, pitch preparation is not such an exact science that a surface can be tailored to suit the strengths of one team while negating those of the other. The one thing both teams will gladly agree on is that no-one wants a pitch that is dangerous, where batsmen are in serious danger of being hit because of drastically varying bounce.