Hampshire v Nottinghamshire, Rose Bowl, 4th day

A travesty of a pitch inspection

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

Jane Cable

July 24, 2011

Comments: 22 | Text size: A | A

Danny Briggs helped Hampshire keep Sussex in check, Sussex v Hampshire, County Championship Division One, Hove, July 12 2011
Danny Briggs thrived on a turner at the Rose Bowl, but so did his counterparts in the Nottinghamshire line-up © Getty Images
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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

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by winstonfg 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.

Posted by   on (July 27, 2011, 12:47 GMT)

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

Posted by jrichards01 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.

Posted by jrichards01 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.

Posted by Munsta101 on (July 26, 2011, 11:19 GMT)

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

Posted by   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).

Posted by   on (July 25, 2011, 15:56 GMT)

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

Posted by   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

Posted by winstonfg 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.

Posted by Exiled-Tyke 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.

Posted by southwood on (July 25, 2011, 9:45 GMT)

The point that M/s Cable raises about exciting CC games is relevant but not at the cost of producing sub standard pitches. Too many games in the distant past were spoiled by pitches that were sub standard and rightly ,in my view, the ECB and its predecessors have improved the standards immensely over the years.

The assessment by the inspectors appears to have been correct because the excessive assistance only merits a 'poor'rating .they had no alternative. If they had rated the pitch otherwise the door is open to asll to produce lower standard pitches than the games,the spectators ,players etc deserve.A good bowlers will bowl well on good pitches, regardless, and will stand out from the journey men bowler who ,in times gone by, flattered to deceive.

Posted by JaneCable on (July 25, 2011, 6:31 GMT)

I have been following the debate with interest, because a debate is what is needed on the subject. However this piece is not really about Hampshire - I would have felt the same if I had been watching the game at Trent Bridge. This is about a pitch which produced a really exciting 3 days of cricket being sanctioned and about the effect on Championship cricket as a result of this decision.

Cricinfo published my Hampshire base so that everyone reading the article would know where I came from. I have worked extensively with Hampshire - on a freelance basis - over a number of years but I would stress that this article is nothing to do with the club, which has taken the 8 points on the chin. As they say 'the views expressed in this article are completely my own'.

Posted by Barnos24 on (July 24, 2011, 20:55 GMT)

Sorry, but cricket has got FAR too batsman friendly these days. I mean if its not a featherbed where its 500-3 dec playing 450-6 dec, then apparently its deemed a poor wicket. Batsman dont seem to get challenged too much anymore these days and because the ball spins a bit more or theres 13 wickets falling in a day, batsmen complain because their averages get a slight dent. Big deal, so you have to work for your runs, its what you are paid to do, ok we all want it as easily as possible, but at least accept a challenge should it be presented. Good first class cricket should be 50/50 between batsman and bowler, and it seems to me these days that bowlers may as well bowl underarm full tosses because bowling on flat dead featherbeds would pretty much yield the same number of runs!!!

Posted by southwood on (July 24, 2011, 18:30 GMT)

The ECB pitch assessments are not as mysterious as M/s Cable describes. The Assessments are based on Consistency,Seam movement,Carry and bounce and Turn. A pitch may be rated poor if there is excessive seam movement at any stage of the match,excessive uneveness of bounce for any bowler at any stage of the match or excessive assistance to spin bowlers especially early in the match. This pitch clearly offered excessive assistance to spinners which is why 51.5 overs were bowled by spinners in Hants ist innings out of 85 and why spinnersx accounted for 25 of the 36 wickets to fall. M/c Cable has worked extensively with Hants and may possibly benn employed by them at one time.She has featured heavily in their web site reports over the last 5 years at least.Hardly an independent opinionIt may be the Rose Bowl voicing an unofficial opinion to avoid further retribution from ECB.

Posted by RonGriffiths on (July 24, 2011, 18:21 GMT)

I have to agree with Jane on this one. I saw the whole game. There was turn from one end, the Pavillion end but not much from the Northern End. One of the players confirmed this to me late on day 3.

If Nigel had prepared a wicket that resulted in a massive run feast with little wickets would that be considered a poor wicket. Of course it would to the spectators but not the ECB it seems.

It was not a good wicket but to rate it as poor in unfair.

Spectators at Championship cricket are sparse as it is. This decision does not help Cricket.

I am not blaming the pitch inspectors, they have their guidlines but as Jane says, why is it not availabe to the public like all other rules and regulations.

Posted by Supersax on (July 24, 2011, 17:55 GMT)

Paul Franks commented that he'd never seen a pitch like it- 'whole areas of the wicket seem to have disappeared' as he put it. Not helped by Imran Tahir putting his feet all over it (for which he twice received an official warning)

The 10 runs per over that Harriet mentions were only scored in the last 4 overs. For most of the innings they were scoring at 2 per over, which is a better indication of the state of the wicket.

Interesting too that some Hampshire supporters appear to think they are better qualified to judge the merits of a pitch than the pitch inspectors or the umpires.

Posted by george204 on (July 24, 2011, 16:48 GMT)

I wasn't there, but you would have thought that a match which lasted just over 300 overs can hardly have been played on a minefield. If Hampshire deliberately prepared a pitch to aid a home win (& exactly what is wrong with that?) it backfired spectacularly given that they nearly lost the match.

The pitches which really should be penalised are those slow low ones where the game finishes with the 3rd innings barely underway after two 500+ declarations with less than 5 wickets down. As George Dobell so correctly observed recently, dead flat wickets are a bigger threat to the game than performance enhancing drugs and match fixing put together.

Posted by   on (July 24, 2011, 14:49 GMT)

Jane, I simply could not agree with you more. I am fuming, absolutely fuming at the ECB's ridiculous decision. If the pitch was so poor then how, pray tell, were Notts able to score at 10 runs an over off it? How was Mackenzie able to rack up a near-century and the tailenders 30 apiece? Did Wood and Griffiths not take wickets?

Notts' decision to whine, bowl spinners and limp along at 2 an over (and that was clearly a tactical decision, given the relative ease of their acceleration) should not influence the ECB.

I have certainly seen worse pitches this year in county cricket, but apparently being based in London, wearing pink and overcharging for Pimms makes one exempt from pitch penalties.

Is a spinning wicket (and might I remind everyone that it is nearly August, over three months into the season, and wickets do spin more as the season progresses) really worth the same deduction as a pitch that hospitalises people?

Oh well. Division 2 beckons. When does the footie season start?

Posted by   on (July 24, 2011, 12:58 GMT)

@Bob Martin - you're missing the point that the pitch wasn't poor, simply some old wax works disapprove of exciting 4 day cricket.

Posted by   on (July 24, 2011, 12:40 GMT)

...' a freelance county cricket reporter based in Hampshire...' So no bias there then.

Posted by Supersax on (July 24, 2011, 11:58 GMT)

'...I can honestly say that the pitch was a result pitch and no more.' It certainly was more. Hampshire not only produced a result pitch, but blatantly produced a result pitch designed to produce a home win. The fact that the much vaunted Briggs and Tahir did not in the end not outbowl Patel and White should not hide this fact.

The pitch was, I understand, the same one on which Steve Borthwick was turning it square in the CB40 match the day before, so Hampshire clearly knew what was likely to happen. The fact that Darren Pattinson bowled only 13 overs in the match, whilst Samit Patel bowled 60 says it all.

Posted by bobmartin on (July 24, 2011, 11:14 GMT)

Hampshire seem to make a habit of poor pitch preparation.. They were docked 2 points in this years T20 for a poor pitch in last years competition, although why they weren't docked them last year, when they won the competition, only the ECB knows.

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