Wednesday, 15 July 2009

The unstoppable rise of the flat track

With the second Ashes Test nearly upon us is it too much to ask for a pitch that offers something for bowlers as well as batsmen?

The First Test at Cardiff ended in the most thrilling of draws, with England hanging on thanks to their last day heroics. Yet, if they had batted well in their first innings the match would have ended as the tamest of draws and a whimper of a start to the 2009 Ashes.

That they did not and chose to come so close to losing is what makes Test cricket so fascinating. But nothing can disguise the fact that the pitch at Cardiff was another in the seemingly endless line of flat tracks that many Test venues around the world seem to be churning out.

Sadly, Lord's is one of the worst offenders with last year's pitch for the Test against South Africa being one of the flattest ever seen. It would have served for a draw over ten days, let alone the customary five. I fear that the wicket for tomorrow's second Test will be much the same, though I would be very happy to be proved utterly wrong. A pitch like that in 2005 would be most welcome.

We only have to go back to the recent series between West Indies and England in the caribbean to see back to back draws on flat tracks, where the side batting last was able to hold out for relatively easy draws. On those occasions it was England who could not find those vital last wickets.

There are still some pitches around the world offering assistance to bowlers, but more often it is overhead conditions that aid them rather than sideways movement, pace, bounce or turn.

I am not advocating a return to the overly helpful pitches of the 80s, though those low scoring matches were much more exciting than the turgid draws that we experience too often these days. All I ask is for a fairer contest between bat and ball.

Let us hope those English groundsmen are listening and that the Ashes 2009 will see a return to livelier pitches and batsmen being truly tested.


Dave said...

If Lord's is flat again it is a worry when you look at the last three venues too.

Edgbaston has been a batting heaven for both sides in the first innings this year in Championship play, Headingley is no longer the seamers paradise of old and is yielding some high scores and The Oval is probably only beaten by Taunton as THE place to be a batsman.

Selecting venues by size of cheque must be questioned if it means that we don't play at two pretty decent 'result' venues like Old Trafford and Trent Bridge, when we need at least one win to take the Ashes.

Brian Carpenter said...

I think this is possibly the greatest threat to Test cricket, and God knows there are plenty of those these days.

Those in charge need to realize that the very future of the game depends on pitches being prepared that will give a better balance between bat and ball.

Sadly I think the majority of them are only interested in matches lasting five days so that they can maximize their income.

Krish said...

It doesn't look like they have made a change this year either. With a near-double-century partnership for the first wicket.

Dave said...

In the end, it turned out to be a good test wicket at Lord's. A bit of pace and some turn.

If it had had a bit more marked deterioration from the end of day 4 and it would have been almost perfect.

Nick Gammons said...

I was very happy to be proved wrong, Dave, although it was overhead conditions and England's discipline, in addition to some pace and turn, that saw Australia bowled out cheaply. The great thing is that the pitch offered something and the bowlers were good enough to exploit it, which made for a great match.

Let's hope for more of the same at Edgbaston, Headingly and The Oval. As, at the moment, the main difference between the two sides is the quality of England's bowling attack.

Dave said...

I agree overhead conditions helped but after all, this is England and such conditions are the norm.

I guess we would run the risk of tests regularly struggling to reach the 4th day if we consciously aimed for pitches that were more even between bat and ball in bright sunshine.

For me, to have pace and a little bounce is the key, as opposed to the slow and low tracks that we often get both home and away.

Whatever the atmospheric conditions, if you bowl with discipline on a wicket like that it will give at least a little something to all types of bowlers on all five days.

If you lose discipline you get punished, which is as it should be in tests.

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