Glamorgan's pre-Ashes teething problems May 19, 2009

Swann plays down Cardiff pitch furore

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England's senior spinner, Graeme Swann, has refused to be drawn into the hype surrounding the state of the wicket at Cardiff, the venue of the first Ashes Test in July, and believes that, far from producing a turning wicket to suit England's requirements, the first priority of the groundstaff at the Swalec Stadium will be to prepare a wicket that lasts for the full five days.

Just seven weeks prior to the Ashes opener, Cardiff's pitch was rated "poor" and its county, Glamorgan, docked two points for next season's Friends Provident Trophy following the spin-dominated contest against Essex earlier this month.

An ECB Pitch Panel comprising Mike Denness and Tony Pigott interviewed the umpires, captains and coaches, and confirmed that the wicket used for the Friends Provident match on May 12 "demonstrated excessive turn and should therefore be rated 'poor'." After bowling first in the match, Essex at one stage reduced Glamorgan to 57 for 7 before a partial recovery to 124 all out, with the Pakistani legspinner Danish Kaneria claiming 4 for 16 in ten overs.

"I'm sure they'll be desperate for the game to go five days down there, so I'm sure there'll be more preparation going into the Test wicket than any other," Swann told Cricinfo. "I wouldn't be surprised if it's not a spinner's wicket, but obviously I'm quite intrigued that spin could play a rather large part of the summer, because as a spin bowler myself I want to play as big a part as possible."

Tim Nielsen, the Australian coach, admitted he had been monitoring the pitch situation in Cardiff and predicts England will play to its strengths and prepare turning pitches this summer. He did not, however, believe the issues surrounding the troubled first Test strip amount to doctoring, and was confident the surface would improve by the time of the first Test.

"It will be interesting to see how it comes up," Nielsen told Cricinfo. "I think it's just a matter of trying to get a new wicket up - you wouldn't have thought they'd want to get themselves docked points in their competition.

"Whenever you go to someone else's country you wait and see what they prepare. Generally, England are renowned for making good, fair cricket wickets, but if they feel two spinners in the way to go for them, then I'm sure they'll have a long think about what kind of wickets they put up. That's fine. We expect hard and bouncy wickets when we go to Perth and Brisbane, so there is no difference."

Nonetheless, the ECB panel's verdict heaps extra pressure onto the Glamorgan administration, who were controversially awarded the opening Test of the Ashes after winning over the ECB with a staging-rights bid of £3 million, backed by the Welsh Assembly.

The refurbished venue has staged just one international match since securing the Ashes Test - England's final ODI against South Africa in September 2008, which was abandoned after three overs because of poor drainage.

Though the outfield has since been relaid, the pressure has scarcely let up on Glamorgan since then. The chief executive, Mike Fatkin, and the head groundsman, Len Smith, both left their posts in the aftermath of the South Africa match, leading the chairman, Paul Russell, to describe the county as "a pretty dysfunctional family."

England's players and pundits have long been unimpressed with the decision to hand Cardiff an Ashes Test ahead of more popular venues such as Old Trafford and Trent Bridge. Earlier this week, Shane Warne joined the chorus by telling Sky Sports that it was a "disgrace" to take the opening fixture away from the game's most traditional venue, Lord's.

Privately, however, the England think-tank will be delighted that the venue for the first Test is shaping up as a turning wicket. Since the retirement of Warne and Stuart MacGill, Australia have struggled to find a Test-class spinner, while England have hit upon two in Swann and Monty Panesar. On this evidence, both men can expect to be named in the first-Test squad.

Glamorgan's director of cricket, Matthew Maynard, indicated he would consider appealing the ECB's decision, and predicted few problems for the Test strip.

"Obviously we haven't played on the Test wicket at all but the ground looks an absolute picture, the pitch looks fantastic and I'm sure (groundsman) Keith (Exton) will get the Ashes strip just right," Maynard told the Guardian. "He's a very experienced groundsman and he knows exactly what he is doing."

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • welshboygman on May 20, 2009, 8:36 GMT

    Quick note on the articel, I was at the ODI versus SAF last year. The game wasn't abandoned due to poor drainage, it was abandonded because it rain persistently for a number of hours through the afternoon and into the evening, subsequently followed by heavy showers. No ground would have managed a game in those conditions.

  • Sandsie on May 20, 2009, 4:11 GMT

    Bring Krejza into the squad! I can't see Hauritz making the most of a wicket with excessive turn.

  • Lizzyp on May 20, 2009, 2:12 GMT

    Wales a foreign country!!??!! Puhleeeze - and anyway, it's the England AND Wales Cricket Board. And believe me, that hurts the Welsh cricket fan - having to support England 'cos the W is always silent!!!! Also, for anyone who isn't aware of the geography, the last time I looked on GoogleEarth, there wasn't even a dotted line separating any of the countries in Britain. And we can speculate all we want ahead of the test, but instead of bitching and moaning about what might happen, why don't we wait and see what actually happens and level criticism at the ECB if it's justified. After all, this is a great mind game to get things rolling - Oz lost to Bangladesh on this ground in 2005.....

  • D.V.C. on May 19, 2009, 14:58 GMT

    The ECB should be careful what spin they put on the pitch conditions at Glamorgan. The 'there was too much spin' spin can only be a bad thing.

  • Rastus46 on May 19, 2009, 14:22 GMT

    I can't see why we are staging an English test match in a foreign country no matter how much they pay. We have enough test venues with the traditional six grounds so why stoop to this sort of mercenary level. It is a disgrace that Old Trafford and Trent Bridge do not have an ashes test. Cardiff would be OK for a Bangladesh or Zimbabwe test.

  • Wharfeseamer on May 19, 2009, 12:56 GMT

    Producing a good cricket wicket (GCW for ease of typing) is difficult. By the way, don't mistake a GCW for a 'good wicket' which has just become a euphemism for a batsman friendly pitch. A GCW should provide an even contest between bat and ball, a pitch where good batsmen can score runs and good bowlers take wickets. All pitches should start with consistent pace and bounce. One day pitches should play the same for both teams for the duration of the match. They should have a little something in it for the bowlers. 4 and 5 day pitches should provide some help for the seam bowlers on the first morning or so, then flatten out for a day or two and then start to deteriorate and take spin and later on the 4th and into the 5th day bouce may become uneven That's why producing GCW's is difficult. A GCW should not turn significantly on days 1 or 2, not really until later on day 3. Should Cardiff have a test match? Why not?

  • Copernicus on May 19, 2009, 12:40 GMT

    A pitch that doesn't consist of tarmac from the carpark laid on the field? A wicket where bowlers might get some assistance for their toil? A ground where the first innings score will be less than 500? Where batsmen with good techniques will be rewarded? Heaven forbid! The umpires were right to report this anti-batsman sin of preparing a turning wicket - bland high scoring draws are obviously what Test cricket needs.

  • JulesUK on May 19, 2009, 12:36 GMT

    Oh, and by the way, when the first Test starts, can we (England cricket fans)all please shut up about Cardiff getting the game and get behind the team.

    It's not Glamorgan's fault that the England AND WALES Cricket board has the criteria it does for awarding test matches to venues, they applied and got chosen.

    If everyone continues carping on about how the game should be at Trent Bridge or Old Trafford, that's bound to set a negative tone which can only negatively impact on the England players and give a boost to the Aussies!

  • JulesUK on May 19, 2009, 12:27 GMT

    Please doctor the pitches - Test cricket needs saving from the 700 plays 700 bore draws!

    By the way, just becuase this wicket turned a fair bit(and what's wrong with that?) that doesn't mean the test strip in Cardiff will behave identically.

  • eoinsmith001 on May 19, 2009, 11:24 GMT

    It's easy. If bowlers have the upper hand, the game ends more quickly. If batsmen have the upper hand, everyone shares in 5 days of gate and tv revenue. By maximising their income at the selection process (by accepting the 3 million bid from Glamorgan), the ECB are now terrified of losing money on a pitch that might not last 5 days for the opening Test. Apparently, spinning pitches can now be openly called "poor". Priorities: money, money, money, money, money, money. Depressing. Maybe they'll de-select Swann for the first Test with an eye to playing out a 5-day run-fest.

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