County news March 24, 2016

Swingeing penalties imposed for unfit pitches

Cardiff's groundsman was sacked soon after Glamorgan's Royal London Cup tie against Hampshire was abandoned © Getty Images

The ECB is set to announce a range of new regulations designed to improve the quality of pitches in domestic cricket ahead of the county season.

It had already been announced that visiting teams would be given the option of bowling first, rather than having a toss, in the County Championship, with the aim of improving the standard of pitches. Now the ECB have unveiled strict penalties on clubs whose surfaces are deemed so poor that matches are abandoned.

A pitch deemed unfit to the extent that a match in the Championship is abandoned will now see the visiting team awarded the match. The visiting team will also gain 16 points plus whatever bonus points they have earned, or 20 points; whichever is greater. The home team will gain zero points from the match and any bonus points they have already earned in it will be deducted. It will also count as a loss to them.

A pitch deemed unfit to the extent that a limited-overs match is abandoned will also result in the visiting team receiving the two points and the home team zero. Furthermore, the home team will be regarded as having been dismissed for zero when it comes to the net run-rate calculation. The visiting team's run-rate from the match will be discounted.

Other changes to the playing conditions ahead of the 2016 season will see group matches in the Royal London One-Day Cup matches start at 11am. They have previously started at 10.30am which was seen as providing too much assistance to seamers in moist conditions. Knockout matches played later in the summer may have to start at 10.30am to avoid problems caused by the earlier sunset, though it is possible floodlights could be used to avert that issue.

The ECB have also decided that no-balls given for bouncers passing above the batsmen's heads in limited-overs cricket should no longer warrant a free-hit. They were concerned that, in 2015, bowlers were reluctant to bowl short-pitched deliveries as the penalty was potentially so costly.

They have also decided that, in televised games, the TV umpire can unilaterally intervene if they see that a full ball over waist height is delivered. The on-field umpires cannot refer to the TV umpire on the matter.

In a move designed to bring the ECB's playing regulations into line with the ICC playing regulations, the wording surrounding the issue of mankading has been altered to ensure that the batsman can only be run out if the bowler has "deliberately" broken the stumps. This is to prevent a situation where a bowler bumps into the stumps - a la Steven Finn - and accidently runs out a batsman despite the delivery being adjudged a no-ball.

The ECB will also announce that, in 2016, half of Second XI Championship matches will be played with Tiflex balls and half with Dukes balls. It would appear the main purpose of that arrangement is to ensure they are not overly dependent upon one supplier and retain some bargaining power when it comes to agreeing costs.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Tom on March 25, 2016, 8:47 GMT

    All the comments so far seem to have overlooked the point that these new penalties are only for cases where a game has to be abandoned, something that has only happened once in my lifetime.

  • Jeff on March 25, 2016, 0:23 GMT

    So what is an 'unfit' pitch? Does (1) a delibratly prepared road where 550-1 declared plays 650-3 declared count as unfit? Does (2) a sporting pitch where an extremely skilful pair of spin bowlers rip a team out for 60 count as unfit? Does (3) a typical division 2 wicket where fast bowlers and spinners are offered nothing but military medium seam-up restricts a team to around 200 count as unfit? Im guessing the answer by the ECB ground adjudicators will be fit-unfit-fit, when the best thing for English cricket, both in terms of the viewing spectacle of the domestic game and the preperation of players for the national team, should be unfit-fit-unfit. Batsmen should not have a free ride, dibbly dobbly medium pacers should never be the forefront of a bowling attack, and any assistance for spinners should always, without exception, be regarded as a good thing.

  • Aubline on March 24, 2016, 20:25 GMT

    Don't understand why the visiting team should profit directly - the last thing you want is a team winning the championship on the back of points gained this way. If a pitch favours either batsman or bowler unduly, it's unfit, yet it's only the latter type which is ever penalised. The result will be exactly that forecast by @McWheels and @CSG.

  • Mark on March 24, 2016, 18:46 GMT

    @McWheels That's the danger... sides will produce pitches like that one at Taunton a few years ago when Middlesex score 600+ and Somerset replied with 850. I am far from convinced that this measure is going to prove to be more than symbolic and it may actually be harmful.

  • J on March 24, 2016, 18:21 GMT

    Does a road where no wickets can be taken count as unfit?

  • Mark on March 24, 2016, 18:11 GMT

    With overly draconian sanctions there is always a danger that sides will overreact and prepare roads to avoid the danger of being penalised. There is also the danger that the sanctions will rarely, if ever, be imposed. The number of times that a pitch has been ruled "unfit" in recent seasons must be measured on the thumbs of one hand, so I am not sure how much such sanctions will achieve in reality to improve pitch quality. However, there is always a danger that players and fans will see unfit pitches every time a few wickets fall. A few years ago, I witnessed the whole of one such game, in which a pitch was condemned by fans, being sat less than two metres from the pitch inspector on Day 2 - I saw it as he did... diabolically bad batting after a T20 match! Not all low-scoring matches are the result of bad pitches.

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