Hampshire v Nottinghamshire, Rose Bowl, 4th day July 24, 2011

A travesty of a pitch inspection

Jane Cable
The guiding principle of Law 7 with regard to pitch preparation is simple: conditions should be as similar as possible for both sides throughout the match - and there can be no argument that this has not been achieved

Having watched all three days' play of Hampshire's LV County Championship game against Nottinghamshire I can honestly say that the pitch was a result pitch and no more. The guiding principle of Law 7 with regard to pitch preparation is simple: conditions should be as similar as possible for both sides throughout the match - and there can be no argument that this has not been achieved.

Danny Briggs and Samit Patel would probably agree. In fact, they would probably like to roll this pitch up and take it with them because both have made their best Championship figures. First Briggs took 6 for 65, then Patel followed with 7 for 68. The pitch was used and dry but the home side made no secret of that fact and both teams picked their bowlers accordingly.

The pitch panel sanctioned Hampshire for excessive turn, and there were of course many balls which spun. With first-class spinners like Patel, Briggs and Imran Tahir bowling most of the overs that is hardly surprising. It is also true to say that the bounce was variable, but not dangerously so. In the main the rogue ball has kept low, such as the Shreck delivery which had Dawson lbw in the first innings, and a couple of seamers early on day two which had pitch inspector Tony Piggott racing to view the analyst's footage.

But what exactly were Mr Piggott, his colleague Mike Denness and ECB pitch consultant Chris Wood looking for? They could be seen pondering the strip before and after play on the final day but the detail of the ECB's pitch regulations is not in the public domain. Why not, when every other rule relating to the conduct of matches is painstakingly reproduced on the ECB's website?

There is a precedent for the eight-point deduction which Hampshire have now received. In May this year Warwickshire suffered the same fate for the pitch they prepared for their Championship game against Worcestershire when the panel declared the pitch had demonstrated 'excessive unevenness of bounce and should be rated poor'. However this was probably not an unreasonable verdict given that Vikram Solanki had been taken to hospital after being hit on the head by a rising delivery.

The pitch at The Rose Bowl this week has hurt nothing more than the pride of a few batsmen. The new ball has taken wickets, and so has the old. Thirteen wickets in a day? What of it? Do the powers-that-be want bland Championship run-fests or games where the balance between bat and ball is restored?

If pitches like The Rose Bowl one are to be ruled as substandard, it is nothing short of another nail in the coffin for the four-day game. Hampshire v Nottinghamshire was a fascinating, edge-of-the-seat match when, even with a whole day lost to rain, a result was possible right until the last over. And for that the groundsman should be commended.

Jane Cable is a freelance county cricket reporter based in Hampshire

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