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September 19, 2010
The pitch at Hambantota, one of Sri Lanka's new venues for the 2011 World Cup, was not to blame for the low scores in the second unofficial Test between Sri Lanka A and Pakistan A, Sri Lanka's head curator, Anurudda Polonowita, has said.
Only 505 runs were scored in the unofficial Test that finished in a little over two days with the home team winning by 39 runs. Twenty two wickets fell on the first day while 13 went down on the second. The ICC's pitch consultant, Andy Atkinson, was also present to witness the first day's play and despite the flurry of wickets he was extremely happy the way the pitch played, according to Polonowita.
He said that there was some assistance for the bowlers from the newly-laid turf wicket, but blamed poor batting by both teams for the early finish. "The batsmen lacked application and they were getting out trying to hit boundaries without settling down to play a long innings," Polonowita said. "This was a four-day test and the batsmen needed to spend some time in the middle before opening out."
National selector Ranjit Fernando, who watched the match, said that there was nothing alarming in the pitch. "Not a single ball misbehaved, nor was any ball unplayable," he said. "There was more grass left on the pitch than at Colombo. It helped the fast bowlers in the morning and the spinners later. Both teams have been playing on very placid pitches in Colombo and when the ball did a little bit the batsmen were found wanting. It is a dry area and you need to have some grass on the pitch otherwise it will dry up very quickly.
"On the first day, when 22 wickets fell, there was movement as well as turn but gradually, over a period, the pitch settled down as you can see from the second-innings totals. Every time teams get out for low scores you cannot say the pitches are bad."
Hambantota will host two matches in the World Cup - Sri Lanka against Canada on February 20 and Kenya against Pakistan on February 23 - and Fernando had a word of caution for teams travelling there. "Any team playing here should come 2-3 days ahead of the match to adjust to the conditions. The winds are so strong (I am told it is stronger than at Dambulla) that the bails often get blown away and have to be replaced constantly. Even after making deep grooves on the stumps the bails were still flying.
"Also the batsman must know which side to hit the ball in the air. The stadium is so large that you need to get used to the atmosphere. The distance between the centre pitches to the boundary lines is about 100 metres."
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