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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Winston on July 27, 2011, 15:48 GMT

    (Quote: "...I was wondering if anyone was going to mention the so-called 'flat track' of Taunton in this debate...") - There's nothing 'so-called' about it: It is, and continues to be, a batter's paradise; and the only reason Somerset haven't got their usual 3.75 batting points a game this year is because they started the season so badly. I've had the same rant about Chelmsford and the Oval in the past, and probably will do about the Rose Bowl (and now, it would seem, Chester-le-Street) in the future. Only Taunton, though, has maintained such consistently high totals and scoring rates.

    I will concede, however, that my remarks about the great Tres are way off base. Both last year and this, he's averaging much higher away from home than he is at Taunton. My apologies, Marcus.

  • Dummy4 on July 27, 2011, 12:47 GMT

    14 Wickets fall in one day at Notts, Have the pitch inspectors been called in there!!!

  • Jonathan on July 26, 2011, 12:40 GMT

    I certainly do agree that result pitches should be encouraged, so maybe the ECB pitch inspectors should investigate the sitaution at the ground at which the most draws have taken place this season and last? Thankfully it seems that they are keeping a close eye on the Rose Bowl already.

  • Jonathan on July 26, 2011, 12:26 GMT

    Congratulations winstonfg! I was wondering if anyone was going to mention the so-called 'flat track' of Taunton in this debate, and you've won the prize!

    Before making judgements regarding Somerset's "guaranteed batting points", perhaps take a look at the recent results? At Taunton, there have been only 4 draws out of the 12 games played this season and last, and all those draws were heavily rain-affected. I think in only one of those games (Yorkshire last year), a result was forced by a declaration.

    Undoubtedly, there were issues a few years back, but that is certainly not the case any more. Also, I think it's rather churlish to try to use this as a basis to diminish the achievements of Marcus Trescothick, who is able to consistently score bags of runs away from home as well.

    It seems to me that Taunton offers exactly what the ECB are looking for: Assistance for seamers, spinners and batsman alike.

  • Ed on July 26, 2011, 11:19 GMT

    One of the days was rained out Stevo. C'mon Jeetan Patel!!

  • Dummy4 on July 25, 2011, 19:42 GMT

    Lucky (or unlucky) enough to have seen 2 days of this game -and 2 days of the Warwickshire/Worcestershire game a couple of months back. The Edgbaston pitch was shocking. Sure Worcestershire didn't hurt any Warwick players with their geriatric pace attack, but had they had Jones, Ali or others who have played for them in recent years it would have been a very different story. I remember Richardson bowling one that was barely short of a length and went 5 feet over the batsmans head, over the keeper for 4 (and Richardson struggles to bowl 80mph on a good day). The Rose bowl was a slow low turner. It was a reasonably good match. Edgbaston was a minefield not dis-similar from the Antigua disasters of recent years (sans the sand).

  • Dummy4 on July 25, 2011, 15:56 GMT

    Anyway Jane when you say you watched all 3 days,wasnt it a 4 day match?

  • Dummy4 on July 25, 2011, 13:00 GMT

    Thanks Jane for having a little dig like most of the media do at warwickshires pitch in May,what needs pointing out is how many runs were scored war..ist innings 383 and 2nd innings 173 off 43 ovrs trying to make a target to chase,no warwickshire players were hurt in the match,maybe worcesters lack of decent bowlers and batters that can stick around made it look worse,the pitch was only reported after the intervention of a worcester based reporter,worcesters inabilities have been shown up in the subsequent matches havent they,so thanks for that Jane,come on you bears win the championship and show the biased southern anti warwickshire jealous media up

  • Winston on July 25, 2011, 12:03 GMT

    I'm glad to see that someone else (and a professional at that) mirrors my opinions on this subject. I didn't see the match in question, but I'm perfectly willing to believe Ms. Cable's assessment - particularly after witnessing the farcical penalty given to Glamorgan back in 2007 after their thrilling match against Middlesex at Swansea.

    Ironically, the snorefest at Taunton in April of the same year, where 600/4 played 850/7 and 1650 runs were scored for the loss of 13 wickets, garnered not a peep from the inspectors; and a pitch that has allowed Marcus Trescothick to add 5 runs to his average in as many years, and virtually guarantees Somerset maximum batting points 8 games a season, seems immune from any penalties.

    I thought the whole point of the move to four day games was to produce more results; so why penalize teams for producing 'result' pitches? Dangerous: yes, difficult: absolutely not. Give us more of 'em, I say...and penalize teams for producing flat-track snorers.

  • Richard on July 25, 2011, 10:33 GMT

    The match ended in a draw. What more needs to be said? How can an unsatisfactory pitch lead to a match that goes the distance? Ridiculous decision. I'm a Yorkshire fan, btw.

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