England v Australia, 5th npower Test, The Oval, 2nd day

Pitch causes a dust storm

Alex Brown at The Oval

August 21, 2009

Comments: 34 | Text size: A | A

Alastair Cook ends a disappointing series with the bat as he edges to slip, England v Australia, 5th Test, The Oval, 2nd day, August 21, 2009
There was plenty of turn at The Oval - as Alastair Cook found out - and the pitch is provoking much debate © Getty Images
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There's nothing quite like a pitch imbroglio to stir the passions, and even more so when that strip is playing host to an Ashes decider. Truth be told, Australia's dramatic second innings stagger was more attributable to England's disciplined bowling performance than a dodgy deck, but with tensions high and an urn on the line, the parched Oval wicket emerged as a major discussion point after the second day's play.

Michael Holding, Shane Warne, Scyld Berry and Peter Roebuck all waded into the pitch debate on Friday, variously describing the surface as over-baked, disappointing and even unethical. After stumps on the first day, Ian Bell commented that the surface played like a day three strip; a view shared by Stuart Broad who, on Friday, felt the footmarks, dust and general scarring were more akin to a fourth day wicket.

At best, The Oval staff erred in their predictions of a traditional, pacey pitch and at worst they were deceptive. A hot, dry week in London leading up to the Ashes decider no doubt contributed to the bone-dry centre strip, but whether groundstaff harboured an underlying desire to produce a result wicket, as has been alleged in some quarters, is unclear.

To the credit of the Australians, no attempt was made to use the abrasive wicket as an excuse for Friday's meek capitulation at the hands of Broad and Graeme Swann. Simon Katich, comfortably Australia's best batsman with a dogged 50, directed praise towards England's attack, rather than vitriol towards The Oval's groundstaff, when assessing the second day's play.

"I guess there will be a fair bit said about that, but the bottom line is England bowled well today and unfortunately we couldn't stop the momentum," Katich said. "A fair bit of credit deserves to go to Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann. The rest of the guys bowled well, but they obviously got the rewards. They deserve a bit of credit rather than talking about the wicket.

"There weren't a lot of balls that disturbed the surface. There were a few, you could see them on the slow-mos, but I think the bottom line is England got the momentum and after the initial partnership we had we just couldn't string another one together and stop that momentum. It only takes one partnership to stop that and unfortunately that was just the way the day panned out. I think the English bowlers deserve some credit. Both teams are playing on the same wicket."

There is little doubt that The Oval wicket deceived both the Australian and English camps prior to the fifth Test. The Australians would dearly love to be throwing the ball Nathan Hauritz's way from Saturday morning, while England would presumably have switched Steve Harmison for Monty Panesar if given another chance.

But to blame the pitch for Australia's woes is to miss the point. The tourists surrendered much of their Headingley advantage with an indisciplined first innings bowling performance at The Oval that yielded 38 extras and 44 boundaries. England, by contrast, never allowed the Australian batsmen a moment of respite on Friday, as reflected in the seven extras and 25 boundaries they conceded.

"What we found as a batting unit was you never felt particularly in on the wicket, it was quite hard to drive on and the ball popped on the odd occasion," said Broad, England's five-wicket hero. "Today it probably played a bit like a fourth day wicket but no ball particularly misbehaved. You can't look at the wicket and blame the wicket

"We found it quite hard to score on, to drive on. It was important to bring the stumps into play because it's not easy to leave on length like a normal Oval wicket. It's a bit more up and down. My plan was to really bring the stumps into play, and look for bowleds, lbws and caught at slips because it's quite a slow wicket."

Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by sixlegbyes on (August 23, 2009, 15:28 GMT)

Australia does not act like England and drop their captain at the end of a close series, especially where one is deluded to claim that they were completely outplayed by the opposition. Nice to see capetown-pom claiming some to have a colonial chip on their shoulders as a point of argument rather than focusing on any realities. Thank go we can now move on from 2005 - what a relief!

Posted by 2.14istherunrate on (August 22, 2009, 12:40 GMT)

This is a lot of fun ...the Oval pitch is really showing up people's mentalities. The fact is the Aussies are always accusing us of whingeing at the slightest thing and yet these strong and noble Aussie hearts have to take everything on the chin!!!!??? Joke! Read Andy saltzman on this match and look at Ist comment down. The fact is if this pitch was a greentop people would accept it and say iot was the weather. If it swings people don't write articles about the how the clouds were bullying them(yet) So why be squeamish if suddenly batsmen are tested by spin early on. Saturday morning's play showsed how to use technique and application to make runs. As for Kiwi tracks,noone complained about the Hamilton track winter 2008. These things just happen. As for the Oval it tends to suit England anyway,like Galle suits Sri lanka well,Perth/Brisbane suit Australia well.

Posted by bossflos on (August 22, 2009, 9:46 GMT)

In the past year we have seen numerous examples of extreme batsmen friendly conditions with teams racking up massive 1st innings and the game drifting into the most tedious of draws. This does nothing for the future of test cricket as entertainment. So I think a result wicket is a far more entertaining spectacle for the public. My worry is not about preparing a results pitch (well done for getting everyone excited about the action) but about the combined cricketing wisdom of both teams, surely at this level they should be able to assess the conditions and realise that its going to suit spinners. Also if the oval authorities were really trying to unfairly assist England then you would have expected this to be reflected in the selection of Panesar.

Posted by andytrolley on (August 22, 2009, 9:46 GMT)

Why would any groundsman doctor a pitch to suit a bowler that neither side possesses? Yes, it's dry. Yes, it's taking spin. Yes, it's late August, and not too many years ago it was a given that late-summer English pitches favoured spin over seam, just like those in May do the reverse (no pun intended). Both sets of selectors have fouled up by not playing 2 spinners (surely the skippers looked at the pitch first), and just for the record, Australia will chase down anything up to 375, so England really neede to get their heads down today. I feel sorry for anyone with tickets for Monday though

Posted by pheonix_revisited on (August 22, 2009, 9:40 GMT)

I fail to understand the hue-cry in this oval pitch which has till now proved to be a batsmen's paradise this summer, every team uses the home-condition to their advantage. Get a feeling Punter & his men are in trouble, as pom said gonna lose ashes 2nd time as captain. The gamble of 'dust bowl' seems to have paid off for now, though the chances of pitch not being mentioned is remote. Aussies have been BIG TIME LOSERS for sometime now. The bottom line is there is a MATCH ON after what happened in the last session, i am betting my money on the english for now. Chasing even 300 on this turning dustbowl track is not gonna be easy even for the talented oz lineup. Aussies have themselves to blame for the mess. Itz upto them to pull off a miracle from here.

Posted by Takkar on (August 22, 2009, 9:34 GMT)

A big noise is being made as if England have already won the Ashes, that ia clearly not the case. If we look at the stats of the 2nd day, Australia made 160/10 & England made 83/5, so that is fairly even contest. Enland are 230 ahead & they need to go past at least 400, to have some realistic hope of winning, which is still 170 away, otherwise the Aussies will have the upper hand. So, England fans, don't be overjoyed, it is still evenly matched......

Posted by ACEMAN. on (August 22, 2009, 9:30 GMT)

Trouble is that impreesion was given that wicket will have pace and bounce, Australia picked their lineup that suits that, otherwise on this dry pitch nathan & lee would likely be playing bringing spin and reverse-swing into equation and then it would have been a different ball game for english batsmen. If everybody knew the sort of pitch it really is before the match & then on that pitch played their best suited team then its an even contest, I believe England benefited more than Australia because of this surprisigly different pitch.

On a seperate note, I cant't believe Australia are going to loose (very likely) the series becaus of 2 bad days in the middle, neither teams have been outstanding in this series but Aussies played much better overall & didnt deserve to loose

Posted by Avid.Cricket.Watcher on (August 22, 2009, 8:22 GMT)

A few points: a) Very classy of Katich to give Broad due credit for a fantastic spell. (in fact, I predict if Aus do lose, Ponting will also give credit to Broad in his comments and acknowledge that their batting wasn't up to the mark) b) Can't deny that losing the toss in such conditions is a significant factor. c) Preparing a wicket that gives the home side an edge is not tantamount to cheating - to quote Chappelli: "there's a reason it's called TEST cricket!". Further, such bowler-friendly wickets are really a GAMBLE if the away team has resources to exploit it (Hauritz had matched Swann so far), and of course the toss can go either way. d) Watson's early reprieve probably offsets North's decision (very classy response from North...just smiled). And Stuart Clark's batting aint gonna decide this match! e) Lastly, IT AINT OVER TILL IT'S OVER!!! England should win, but I would never count out an Aussie team in an Ashes battle of nerves! (I suspect neither would English fans!)

Posted by swingnseam on (August 22, 2009, 8:10 GMT)

So we finally have a pitch that gives the bowlers some chance. Big deal. Test cricket isn't about teams racking up 550+ and quality bowlers having to wheel away all day on a shirt front. Isn't it a more fair contest if the pitch has enough in it to interest the bowlers without doing anything dangerous, which seems to be the case here. No balls have massively misbehaved but many poor shots have been played. Be careful not to get drawn in by the commentators. We have a whole army of former players with not much to talk about and a lot of time to do it, hence a certain subject gets picked and runs and runs. In this case it's the pitch that is the centre but has it really done anything terrible yet but provide a few puffs of dust?

Posted by topcav on (August 22, 2009, 8:06 GMT)

I'm not quite sure what the problem with the pitch is. How many of the wickets (so far) were directly and obviously attributable to pitch weirdness? And what would have happened if England had lost the toss? It clearly is a result pitch, but both sides have to bat on it- England (so far) have had best use of it by winning the toss, but there was no guarantee of that. The Oval has been prepared as a result wicket when the home team need a result- that is all and it happens all round the world-whether that result goes England's or Australia's way is down to the players (and a lucky toss).

Posted by aussie7798 on (August 22, 2009, 8:05 GMT)

vyshal the aussies dont vary the pitches to suit the series conditions. perth has always been bouncy sydney is a spinners pitch the gabba offers good conditions to all adelaide and hobart are batsmen friendly. unlike the oval which has been a run fest this year but has suddenly and mysteriously changed into a dust bowl

Posted by MiddleStump on (August 22, 2009, 7:53 GMT)

The mighty aussies are in trouble. Their shortcomings against an average spinner have been exposed. The emperor has no clothes but plenty of complaints. Some oz fans seem to think that a batsman is great if he can handle fast bowling, never mind how poorly he plays spin. Think again. Many of those who watched Sunny Gavaskar play for two decades against the best fast bowlers in the game still rate his 96 on a minefield in Bangalore against two world class spinners as the best innings of his career. There is a reason. Call it talent, application and footwork. Doubt if the wailing aussie fans will get it.

Posted by itsankush on (August 22, 2009, 7:26 GMT)

@ popcorn..And what do you have to say to English batsmen given out on no-balls?

Posted by chandau on (August 22, 2009, 7:21 GMT)

Isn't it funny that Poms prepare a spin friendly wicket when there is no spinner of "CLASS" in either side! I mean Nathan is a roller and Swann is no better. Bring them to the subcontinent and see how they get wacked around like JeetanP the other day (SL v NZ). Still to see North turn the ball like Murali / Baaji is ample evidence the pith is overdone. Further it was funny to see both Freddie and SIddle laugh and point at the pitch every time the top came off and the ball misbehaved. Does the ICC inquire on subcontinent pitches only??? This match will be over mid 3rd day. Is that the advert for TEST CRICKET ICC plan to air??? Umpiring has been poor in Ashes series as well as SL V NZ series. Does the ICC look at the performance of umpires in the interest of the game or try appeal system???

Posted by capetown-pom on (August 22, 2009, 7:07 GMT)

Otautahi, you may be impartial but you have one massive colonial chip on your shoulder, likewise popcorn and sixlegbyes....Ethics my arse...rubbish batting more like. Australia, 1)lost the toss, 2) bowled average and 3)collapsed...DEAL WITH IT, and stop blaming the pitch...It happened at Lords. If England finish up at the end of today 450 ahead do we still blame the pitch? Methinks you all can't quite believe than Ponting is about to become the 1st aussie to lose 2 ashes series as captain(and his job). If it's any consolation, there's only one team in the world who could lose a series from this position, and Ricky's playing them, so there's still a chance, regardless of the wicket. Come on Engerland, try not to drop the bottle...

Posted by Vyshal on (August 22, 2009, 6:37 GMT)

Whether the aussies win or loose the Ashes, I am sure they would make a hue and cry about the pitch offered in the last test. If they refresh their memories little bit, I would like to remind them that the bone hard pitches offered to visitors at venues like Perth are too heavily tilted in the favour of the hosts. Every team has lost matches there and the asian teams have had a complete white wash (3-0 to both India and Pakistan). It'd be better if we do not do a postmortem for this pitch and rather concentrate on cricket.

Posted by crescentboy on (August 22, 2009, 6:30 GMT)

So England have cheated by preparing a turning wicket...lets just look at the facts shall we??? Hauritz had taken more wickets in the series than England's 2 spinners combined, one of whom has taken about 7 wickets in the entire first class season......

Makes a lot of sense when you look at it like that...!!!!!!!!

Posted by finncam on (August 22, 2009, 5:54 GMT)

Bugnot has given us a classic example of the Pommie whiner.

Posted by eyballfallenout on (August 22, 2009, 5:48 GMT)

I am not blaming the pitch for aus batting, not even blaming there batting, it was England's excellent bowling that have put the game where it is now. But i would like to call all cricket fans around the world to stand up for the pitches of old to return. Where have the english green top seamers gone? if you get cloud you win, if its sunny you score 700, in perth you need a 600 run lead and 2 full days to may be force a result, melbourne slow and low, the only good wickets left are in south africa. Pace and bounce needs to be back, its horrible watching flintoff, harmison, lee, siddle, johnson all bowling 150kph and getting pulled and hooked all over the ground. these slow low pitches suck! at least india will start winning away from home since all the pitches are like there back yards.

Posted by TheDoctor394 on (August 22, 2009, 5:42 GMT)

Just to add a touch of support to Bugnot, he/she might be predicting the whinging from the Australian media, which is seemingly never ending. Already, here in The Courier Mail this morning, which came out before the Australian collapse had even happened, we have the headline "England Accused of Doctoring Pitch". The writing there approaches dismal standards nowadays, unlike the high quality usually found at sites like CricInfo. But certainly, full credit to the Australian players for their fair views, particularly Katich. As he rightly says, both teams are playing on the same pitch. And, if Australia ends up winning the match after all, I don't think even their media will make too many negative comments about it.

Posted by Antomann on (August 22, 2009, 5:37 GMT)

Why are people making a fuss about the wicket? Because it's been doctored to help spin bowling, that's why. You think if Shane Warne was still playing they would have done it? Not bloody likely. But so what? England have seen a way to win the Ashes, and they've gone for it. Good luck to them.

Posted by NavalPatel on (August 22, 2009, 5:36 GMT)

Contrast the protestations that the Oval wicket was "not a dodgy deck" with the criticism of the Kanpur pitch for the 3rd Test vs SA last year. The first three innings at Kanpur reached moderate totals with hardly any dismissals attributed directly to misbehaviour off the pitch, and wickets went to sharp spin only in the fourth innings of the match, that on the fourth day. Yet the pitch was censured by the ICC appraisal system. We are not seeing similar vicious balls already at the Oval in the first two days because neither team includes a spin bowler of high quality. To be consistent then, the Oval pitch should also be censured and the ground threatened with withdrawal of its Test status. Will this be done, or excuses about weather etc made to gloss over this imperfection since it has occurred in England?

Posted by Dilpreet on (August 22, 2009, 4:27 GMT)

You can't blame the oval wicket for the Aussies downfall and if they had Hauritz in their team they wouldn't be so concerned about it. The fact is both teams are playing on the same pitch and if england in their 2nd innings beat the 160 that Australia got in their 1st, it will show us who to blame - Aussie team or the pitch

Posted by chilliboy1 on (August 22, 2009, 4:14 GMT)

The aussies as usual need to blame others and the pitch, although I will acknowledge that Ricky Ponting has changed his policy in post match interviews, which is a blessed relief from the legacy of poor sportsmanship bequethed to Ponting after Waugh et al left the team.

The fact is that both sides have to cope with injuries to key players, the pitch conditions and what goes on in their heads.

In terms of mental strength the current aussies have been found wanting by South Africa, India and now England.... and there are no McGraths and Warnes to hide behind now!!

Bad luck Australia now you have to earn your victories, and that can only be good for test cricket.

Posted by Otautahi on (August 22, 2009, 4:09 GMT)

bugnot,max6,pkp23......clearly England fans. Us impartials who are neither Poms nor Aussies are very much in the camp of the highly intelligent comments of Michael Holding - saying a pitch like this is unethical. There is no question that groundsman has done a woeful job here. There were clearly problems on the first morning when Hilfenhaus couldn't get a good footing in delivery stride. If this pitch was produced outside of England there would be formal complaints to the ICC. I sit up until midnight (NZ time) watching this series (which doesn't involve my national team) to watch matches filled with poor umpiring (which very much favours England) and now a very dodgy pitch - HOW is this good for the game we all love??? HOW can the ECB and England serve up this rubbish to the wider public and be allowed to get away with it??

Posted by sobosan on (August 22, 2009, 3:05 GMT)

Truth is - they're both batting on the same pitch. And if we can recoil in horror whenever England throws away a wicket, than we can rightfully jump for joy at every Aussie failure. I remember the 5-0 whitewash down under, and will never pause when enjoying a day like today. Go England!

Because you never know when the next 51 all out is lurking 'round the bend...

Posted by aussie7798 on (August 22, 2009, 2:29 GMT)

bugnot where exactely have you seen the australians whinging about the wicket katich just gave a interview about how well the english bowled.

and if you want some info the oval groundsmen said that he would produce the same wicket he has all year, well in the last game played here the combined total for the 4 day game was 9 wickets for over 1200 runs the game before 20 wickets for just under 1200 runs

i dont think they made those runs playing on a wicket like the one for this test, i am not saying that it is good cricket and i believe that more bowler friendly wickets need to be the norm but to think the pitch has not been prepared with a agenda in mind is naive.

Posted by sixlegbyes on (August 22, 2009, 2:25 GMT)

Please pull your head in bugnot!!! Did you read the article? Did you hear Simon Katich's interview. Feel free to name an Australian who's blamed the pitch for our 1st innings batting performance. Don't forget to keep pointing out every no-ball an Englishmen gets out to. This never happens to any other player from any other country in the world, never does this injustice ever occur to anyone except an English batsmen. Why are you considered whingers....I can't imagine why?

Posted by HE_Pennypacker on (August 22, 2009, 2:14 GMT)

Hey bugnot, pull your head in mate - where's the Aussie whinging? Did you actually read the article? If so, how did you miss "To the credit of the Australians, no attempt was made to use the abrasive wicket as an excuse for Friday's meek capitulation"?

Posted by RaghuramanR on (August 22, 2009, 1:33 GMT)

I am surprised at how some English commentators are confident of England losing this Ashes. Right from day one of first test, I have mentioned many a time that England looks more likey to be the winner in this Ashes simply because of their bowling superiority. Anderson is the key for this Ashes and Swann & Broad have done their bit in different test matches. Reg batting, Strauss seems to have a better head but Collingwood, Key have been more than a handful while Australia seems to be too reliant on Ponting and the openers simply being ineffective.

Posted by cricketfanindia on (August 22, 2009, 1:04 GMT)

It was just a lack-lustre performance by Australia. The fact that there is turn on the second day is not a bad thing. But the top order fell too easily. A score of 250 would have been in order. Using the hard-roller might help. Australia can still try to wrap England up for about 200 and bat carefully. Sometimes it is just a lack of application.

Posted by bugnot on (August 21, 2009, 23:45 GMT)

And let the Aussie whinging and moaning begin. Why is it that you lot call English the whingers yet when you examine have more whinge per lose ratio than any other country. Aww the pitch wasn't a flat tracker where you could get an easy draw and had to actually play? That's just too bad.

If it's not one thing it's another, I didn't hear anyone write articles about decisions given against England at Leeds, but columns after columns were laid out on how Umpiring decisions at Lord's caused Aussies to lose.

Posted by 2.14istherunrate on (August 21, 2009, 22:21 GMT)

If this were a stodgey flat standard modern pudding pitch-for convenience sake termed the 'global pitch' which one imagines with horror will be ubiquitous soon because everything has to be the same in our future world- and one side made 550, and the other 600 and on the fifth day the game snored to a longed for death and the remaining spectators scraped off the seats and taken to the morgue, certain 'connoiseurs' of pitches and the moneymen(for this year at any rate) would be satisfied for the game would have lasted. But nobody else would. What the hell is unethical about proper entertainment, when the alternative is killing Test cricket? Should one be squeamish if the home side plays better in their own backyard, when the Oval traditionally vastly favours England anyway? Test match players shoukld be able to play on any surface to measure their skills, and more fool Ponting for not playing a spinner.

Posted by pkp23 on (August 21, 2009, 21:26 GMT)

Why are people making a big fuss over the quality of the pitch? And why is a track that makes 500 runs look like cake considered a "good" track?

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