Sri Lanka v Australia, 1st Test, Galle, 3rd day September 2, 2011

Problems with the pitch-mat?

Plays of the Day from the third day of the Galle Test between Sri Lanka and Australia
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The hair-dryer
Heavy overnight rain and lighter stuff on the third morning meant that play did not start until 12.10 pm. Before then the groundstaff were delayed by a handful of damp spots on the pitch, where water had seeped through the cover. They were evened out by the rather novel use of a hair-dryer, which was applied in small circular motions to the patches of moisture with the help of one of those industrial length power cords that allow the toss and pitch report to be televised. The irony of damp spots on the driest Test pitch many of the Australian players had ever seen cannot have been lost on Michael Clarke and Tim Nielsen as they watched the hair-dryer in action.

The target
By the time Sri Lanka dismissed Australia for 210, they were facing a target of 379, the biggest chase in their history if it was to be achieved. The best remains the thrilling pursuit of 352 against South Africa at the P Sara Oval in 2006, when Mahela Jayawardene's 123 anchored the chase and Lasith Malinga scrambled the winning run after Muttiah Muralitharan had been bowled with two needed. The outlook for the Sri Lankans in Galle was bleaker, given that the highest fourth-innings score here is 210 for 9 by England in 2003, while the highest successful fourth-innings chase is a mere 96, albeit with 10 wickets in hand, by Sri Lanka against India in 2010.

The pitch mat
The first two balls of Sri Lanka's innings demonstrated the narrow margins by which innings and careers can be decided, and why suspicions of imprecision continue to linger around ball-tracking technology. Ryan Harris' first ball to Tharanga Paranavitana was straight, short of a length and kept low, thudding into his pads in front of the stumps. The Hawk-Eye pitch mat showed the ball had landed millimetres outside leg stump, though Paranavitana declined to review the decision. Next ball, Kumar Sangakkara was struck in line by one that swung back at him, and after the appeal was declined the Australians referred it. Initial replays suggested the ball had pitched in line with the stumps, as it generally has to if it swings back to threaten a left-hander's pads. However the Hawk-Eye mat subsequently showed the ball landing on the same line as the previous delivery. Sangakkara survived, amid widespread mutterings about whether two wrongs can ever make a right.

The follow-through
When Nathan Lyon and Trent Copeland were batting together at the end of Australia's second innings, discussions broke out over the question of whether or not Lyon had scuffed the pitch with his spikes. Mahela Jayawardene certainly seemed to think so, and he pushed on with his line of inquiry when Copeland was bowling in the late afternoon. Australia's combative wicketkeeper, Brad Haddin, also became involved, before Ricky Ponting added his opinion during a conversation with the umpires. Given the margin between the teams it all felt a little empty, but the state of the pitch made the issue of its preservation a stickier topic than usual.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • randikaayya on September 3, 2011, 6:44 GMT

    Comments to cricinfo articles on this game have been varied and mostly accusational of the pitch and player temperament BUT I for one am enjoying this game. I love it when there is a certain degree of difficulty to free scoring. Only then will the batsmen's real abilities start takign stock. If you see the better innings in this game, Hussey, Clarke, Mahela and Anji they are amongst the most watchable played this calender year. Great game and it still rolls on while I type!

  • Sun25 on September 3, 2011, 5:04 GMT

    So, were the BCCI and senior Indian players justified all along in the use of Hawk-Eye for decision review? Do not see any comments from the experts acknowledging that the BCCI-bashing in relation to UDRS may have been a bit un-justified, and that there was a valid point that was being made.

  • dummy4fb on September 3, 2011, 3:24 GMT

    People have started comparing india and sl... they did that before India went to Eng only to find that In got thrashed. Now they are comparing this match with Ind in Eng. So its my turn to make comparisons. Even without Malinga and Murali, SL do have a much stronger bowling attack than India. They have variation with the likes of Mendis, Herath, Nuwan Pradeep (when fit) and a couple of other guys waiting in the wings for test opportunities. India unfortunately have only Harbajan and Zaheer to look forward to. When it comes to the top 4 someone said that Dilshan "was just an imitation Sehwag and not even a good imitation". Well for the imitation to score 190+ in Eng (a total that the entire Indian team had trouble getting) rests the case of him being an imitation. I believe that this test is just a case of Sri Lanka expecting to throw a dusty pitch put in a couple of spinners and watch Aus stumble. Now that they know otherwise. The rest of the series will be hard fought.

  • andrew-schulz on September 3, 2011, 3:19 GMT

    Did someone point out to you that there were actually 2 different pitch match shown for the Sangakarra wicket (or it should have been a wicket). the first mat showed the entire ball well and truly pitching in line. Also, when the UDRS was first brought in, was it not the case that only part of the ball had to be hitting the mat? (This was the case with even the second pitch mat, despite your false assertion that the ball had landed millimetres outside leg stump.)

  • dummy4fb on September 3, 2011, 3:00 GMT

    why the hell are these sri lankan players complaining about aussie bowlers following through in the pitch? they(lankans) are the ones who prepared such a dreadfully dry pitches for the game.

  • dummy4fb on September 3, 2011, 1:48 GMT

    @Barnos24: I'm all for turning pitches as they really test a batsman. But when everytime the bowler's foot lands on the pitch, you see the surface disintegrating into poofs of dust! That's a bit too much I feel. It's ok to see pitches with the ball ripping around but shouldn't it last for 5 days? If Murali and Warne had bowled on this wicket, the match might not even have lasted 2 days!

  • muggsy9 on September 3, 2011, 0:59 GMT

    Terrible pitch. Husseys 95 is like a double ton and clarkes 60 was like a 150. you shouldn't get grubbers on a test match pitch until the 4th day. Toss had too much importence in the result

  • dsig3 on September 2, 2011, 22:56 GMT

    It seems awfully quite these days on the Cricinfo forums. With India taking a beating and Sri Lanka off to a rough start there is finally a sense of peace in the world. It was getting rather noisy around here up to about 2 months ago.

  • dummy4fb on September 2, 2011, 21:42 GMT

    Interesting to see Indian soothsayers are back in action waking from English induced stupor. Lanka's problem is not bowling but batting of Dilshan & co.

  • A_Vacant_Slip on September 2, 2011, 21:39 GMT

    Prepare a joke of a pitch = you get a joke of a result. Australia? Winning a Test match? Ha ah ha ha. You can't be serious. They are a terrible side. And why are you india fans here? You have taken a hidious thrashing aha ha ha! You cannot hold up you heads either. India = useless and cannot do anything away from India. Ha ha ha!

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