A professional who learned his trade as curator under the legendary Phil Russell and played with Kevin Pietersen, will add two wickets to the 12 that has served South Africa with distinction during the past quarter of a century.
Since unity, South Africa has won 19 tests from 29 on the hallowed turf at Newlands, while being almost invincible in One Day Internationals and racing to victory in 26 of 31 appearances.
Evan Flint had visions of representing Natal when, as part of a life-skills work experience-apprenticeship with some of his class mates at Maritzburg College in 1997, he went to Kingsmead to train under the watchful eye of the future South African coach, Graham Ford.
He also spent two days working on the covers as Russell shared his wisdom with him.
It proved to be a turning point for Flint, who later became assistant-groundsman and curator at Kingsmead before he moved to Newlands.
Earlier in 1997, he represented the second team of Maritzburg College with Pietersen. “That was in the first term of Kevin’s matric year. In the last term, he went on to represent the first team, and never looked back,” said Flint.
Flint has certainly also left his indelible mark on the ground at PPC Newlands, which has received rave reviews from the critics.
A record crowd assembled for the New Year’s test in 2016 where England hammered 629 in the first innings, but they were flirting with disaster in their second innings on 159 for six. South Africa nearly achieved the impossible and scrambled the win, but just ran out of time as England consolidated.
“We will dig up the Newlands-turf at the end of the square in May and will now have 14 wickets instead of 12,” said Flint.
“They will mainly be used for amateur and club cricket. But this is much-needed. We will have a bumper season in 2018 when we will host three tests, three One Day Internationals and at least two T20-Internationals.
“We will complete the digging within two weeks. I’m feeling like a kid in a candy shop and I’m really looking forward to it,” he added.
The number four- and five-strips are test wickets, and Vernon Philander and Dale Steyn will remember them with fondness. Philander took 5-17 in his maiden test against Australia in 2011 when South Africa won by eight wickets.
He also nipped out 5-7 on the same strip in 2012/2013 as South Africa romped to victory against New Zealand.
Steyn is the leading wicket-taker in tests for South Africa at the venue, having taken 65 scalps in 13 appearances.
“We will be ready in a year’s time with those two added wickets,” said Flint.
“In the off-season, we will scarify the 12 existing strips, drill them, top-dress them and fertilize it,” he added.
South Africa and Sri Lanka will meet at PPC Newlands in the second test starting on the 2nd January 2017.
They will also be at loggerheads on the 7th February in a One Day International at the venue.
“I am excited about the new strips, which just demonstrates our unwavering commitment as a Western Cape cricketing family to cater for amateur and professional cricket,” said Nabeal Dien, chief executive officer of the Western Province Cricket Association (WPCA).
“Club cricket remains the life blood of the game in this region and we want to host these emerging stars at the famous venue.”