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MS Dhoni blamed a spongy pitch when India were bowled out for 88 by New Zealand. Pitches get far worse than "spongy".
South Australia v Victoria, 1874
After a ferociously hot summer in 1874, what was already a hard, crazy-paved pitch on the first day of South Australia's first-class fixture against Victoria became cracked beyond reason as the match wore on.
As early as the second day, the bowlers' follow-throughs were like extreme hopscotch. By the third day, four balls had been lost in cracks running across the centre of the pitch. On the fourth day those cracks were so large that the batsmen could no longer run and could therefore only score in boundaries.
In all, the match featured six twisted ankles, three lost boots and a missing umpire. A large ladder was brought in at the end of the game to retrieve five fielders, one batsman and the remaining umpire, who were all stranded at one end.
Holkar v Baroda, 1949
It was thought that the pitch for the 1949 Ranji Trophy fixture between Holkar and Baroda was likely to deteriorate in a similar way, so the curator glued it - still a controversial practice today and virtually unheard of back then.
Unfortunately for the players on both sides, the glue used was entirely unsuited to the task and never really dried. Running between the wickets became more and more difficult as the match wore on, the tacky surface clinging to boots and slowing players down considerably.
The match featured 18 run-outs, with batsmen needing to allow a full minute for a quick single and only one two being scored in the entire match. That two was the result of a wild overthrow, but the sheer exertion of repeatedly wrenching their feet free to travel the 44 yards required caused both batsmen to irreparably damage leg muscles. Stretchers were sent on and it took the whole of the afternoon session for the carriers to prise them off the floor bearing their human cargo.
The match was abandoned on the third day, with the players finally leaving the field later that month.
Berkshire v Herefordshire, 1882
Berkshire opted to move their fixture against Herefordshire to another ground after heavy rain had flooded their first-choice venue. Unfortunately they arrived to a pitch even less well suited to cricket. The groundsman in question had been entirely unaware they were planning to play a match there, having died four years previously.
As they were already resorting to their back-up plan, the match went ahead in what is thought to be the longest grass ever seen on a cricket field. The bowling was a rich mix of full-tosses and beamers, and once a path between the wickets had been sufficiently flattened by the batsmen, ridiculously high-scoring shots became common. Batsmen would run back and forth, again and again, while the fielders rooted around where they thought the ball might have landed.
Requiring 34 off the final delivery, Berkshire thought they had got home easily, only for it to later transpire that the batsman had in fact been dismissed. A fielder had got lost in the undergrowth for a quarter of an hour or so after taking a catch and had therefore been unable to notify the umpires of his success.
Alex Bowden blogs at King Cricket. The matches in this article are fictional (but you knew that already, didn't you?)
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