Sri Lanka v Australia, 1st Test, Galle September 5, 2011

Galle dustbowl rated 'poor' by ICC


Sri Lankan cricket authorities face formal sanction for Galle's dustbowl first Test pitch after it was officially rated "poor" by the ICC match referee Chris Broad. SLC must provide a written response to his report within 14 days.

A hefty fine and "a directive for corrective action" will be the result if the ICC does not deem their explanation sufficient. The pitch was the cause of much conjecture in the lead-up to the match, but by its conclusion both sides agreed it had been far too dry and offered exceedingly rare extremes of spin and variable bounce.

"The ICC's General Manager - Cricket, Dave Richardson, and the ICC's chief match referee Ranjan Madugalle will now consider all the evidence," the ICC said in a statement, "including studying video footage of the match and submissions from the host Member Board, before reaching their decision in due course."

Ricky Ponting equated the Galle pitch to the infamous Mumbai surface of 2004 while Michael Clarke said "day one felt like day five" after Australia wrapped up a 125-run victory in the first Test.

The Australians' pride in victory was made more so by the state of the surface, which can be described as a desert in the middle of an oasis. Galle is lashed by frequent rain and the outfield is verdant green, but the pitch prepared for the Test, ostensibly to aid Sri Lanka's spin bowlers, was tinder dry. Even Tillkaratne Dilshan, Sri Lanka's captain, expressed surprise at the pitch.

When gusts of wind swept across the ground on day four, some officials wondered whether they might take the whole of the pitch with them.

Having celebrated his 100th win in Test matches, becoming the first man to achieve the feat, Ponting said he had only seen one other pitch of similar quality in his career. That match, the fourth Test between India and Australia at Wankhede Stadium in 2004, was completed in little more than two days after the first was all but lost to rain.

"Yeah [I can remember] one, we had one in Mumbai on which we had to chase 100 in the fourth innings and it was about halfway through the second day and we couldn't get them," Ponting said. "I think we all knew when we saw the wicket two days out from the start of this game we knew it was going to be like this.

"It was very loose two days out and we couldn't see how it was going to get any better. So it was a great toss to win and a good first innings total for us and that set the game up."

Clarke, who made an important 60 in the second innings to ensure the fourth innings target would be out of Sri Lanka's reach, was similarly wide-eyed about the surface, and conceded the toss had gone a long way towards deciding the match.

"If you speak to all the batters that's definitely one of the toughest wickets I've had to bat on in a Test match and that was on day one," Clarke said. "Day one felt like day five of a Test match, so to scratch out 270-odd were crucial runs, we thought that was a pretty good score.

"It's really hard, I hate to see a Test match result determined by the toss, I hate to see any game of cricket determined by the toss, but that was one of the toughest wickets I've played Test cricket on. No doubt it was prepared for spin bowling, but I think it might've backfired as well."

Dilshan had commented on match eve that the pitch would start to turn after tea on the first day, but it was doing plenty from the first morning, when Rangana Herath's first ball jumped and turned to kiss the edge of Shane Watson's bat. If anything the pitch's venom dissipated a little on days three and four, allowing Mahela Jayawardene and Angelo Mathews add 142 to delay Australia's win.

"This is a challenging wicket," Dilshan said. "We know when you come to Galle this is a slow wicket, this is a very challenging wicket for Test cricket, but we've managed to get the highest fourth innings runs today. It is challenging, not easy.

"Normally the Galle track is very dry. We expect a turning and slow wicket in Galle but the thing is this started turning first day, so it was a little bit drier but we expect Galle to be similar to this as we've played previous."

Clarke praised the efforts of Michael Hussey, who was named Man of the Match for his 95 in the first innings, when the rest of the batsmen were struggling.

"His 95 is worth at least 150 on that wicket, and put us in a great position to win the Test, so I'm thrilled," Clarke said. "We executed our plans really well. As a batting group we would've liked someone to go on and make a hundred, especially in the first innings we found that all of us got a start.

"If Huss had a couple of partners I'm sure he would've got a hundred, but that's one thing as a batting unit we can work on. Our bowling unit did a really good job as a group, hitting good areas, we knew on that wicket we were going to get a little bit of inconsistent bounce so we had to be at the stumps as much as we could, and our fielding was fantastic, our energy in the field was the standard we want to see."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on September 6, 2011, 18:07 GMT

    Thats true. this has some thing wrong in it

  • Rokky on September 6, 2011, 16:57 GMT

    Yeah because of the pitch, 4 batsmen got badly injured, the match got over in 4 days because ballers took 20 wickets and the batsmen could not last 5 days to make it interesting DRAW match. We should ban all the pitches that test batsmen skills and produce results.....oh sorry to mention all the asian pitches...We need DRAWS with both team scoring 1000 runs each and not result oriented matches....well done ICC

  • Terry on September 6, 2011, 16:28 GMT

    Speaking of using conditions ..... did anyone else hear Dominic Cork commentating on the Sussex v Surrey 40 over match bemoaning the quality of balls used in county cricket and state that England have commandeered all 2009 produced Duke balls for a private supply as it is believed the newer ones dont swing as much? Does that mean these balls are kept just for England to bowl with in Tests or what? Seems a strange story but the attention to detail rings true. Anyone? I note that England have not lost at home in this period and their swing bowlers have been outstanding.

  • Sinha on September 6, 2011, 15:44 GMT

    There is a saying in Sinhala that goes, "Be careful not to fall into the pit you've dug to trap someone else." This is exactly what happened to the Sri Lankan team in Galle.

  • Dru on September 6, 2011, 14:43 GMT

    I dont have a problem with the ICC's decision so long as next time NZ produce a seaming wicket or SA produce a green top and the game is done in 3 days the same treatment applies. Also when SL go to the SCC and both sides make 500+ in a tame draw the same should apply. I agree the pitch was not the best but it produced a decent contest and all the bowlers got something out of it. The fact that Lyon got one wicket in the 4 innings shows that it wasnt a spinners paradise while Watson got swing and Harris got seam movement. The only century came in the 4th innings. Yes it wasnt the best pitch but surely worse pitches have produced worse results and no one has said a thing.

  • Rakesh on September 6, 2011, 13:50 GMT

    @landl47 - swann will be hit to all corners. Other then that one test he was mostly uselss. Dont be so overconfident. Asian batsman still are better players of spin. Poms will be dancing around when they visit Asia next.

  • Rakesh on September 6, 2011, 13:44 GMT

    Non-asian countries will always be cry baby when they have to play on spinning tracks. What are they moaning about after winning? Aussies should be proud that they played on such a track and won. I believe sub continent countries should always dish out such wickets. Its their home turf and they should have wickets which suit them. As Mr Andrew Struass puts it, its home advantage.

  • Naveen on September 6, 2011, 13:04 GMT

    if dusty pitch is unfair n poor , so is grass tops.... y cant icc take action against eng 4 preparing grass tops against india n lanka dis season?? a good team must find a way to win in both surface .. HOPE INDIA PREPARE WORST PITCHES THAN DIS 4 ENGLANDS VISIT... n play 3 specialist spinner.

  • Sam on September 6, 2011, 12:47 GMT


  • Zafar on September 6, 2011, 12:27 GMT

    I mean WTH... It's ok to ask for DRS technology but PITCH... this was never a dangerous pitch for batsman so, why o why ICC?? I don't have words for ICC's nonsense... Barring Sangakkara, all my favorite players in both teams scored.. This pitch had only one fault; it tested the quality of batsman.. Had this been the only parameter for judgment then South Africa should have been banned for all sorts of cricket till now.. Tests played there give a result mostly in 3 or 4 days due the presence of green meadows (for all the desert mourners)..

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