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."
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