Australia v England, 5th Test, Sydney

SCG steadfast against drop-in pitches

Daniel Brettig in Sydney

January 2, 2014

Comments: 19 | Text size: A | A

England bat under grey clouds at the SCG, Cricket Australia Invitational XI v England, Sydney, 3rd day, November 15, 2013
The SCG surface for this Test was slightly grassier than usual because a recent BBL fixture had encroached on its preparation time © Getty Images
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Sydney's cricket ground has undergone major redevelopment since the last Ashes Test at the ground, with last-minute work on the new MA Noble and Don Bradman Stands set to go on into the night on match eve. But the SCG curator Tom Parker is adamant that concessions to the demands of multi-sport stadiums will not go so far as to force Sydney to resort to the drop-in pitches now used in Melbourne and Adelaide.

"It's only myself here and Gabba that have traditional pitches," Parker said. "We're a dual purpose ground and it is a mammoth task to change over from AFL to cricket and maintain a first-class pitch. For the characteristics of the SCG, even if you had a drop-in here, you're not going to replicate the centre that's out there at the moment. No I think we're right, the Trust is pretty staunch. Can't say it's never ever going to happen but in near future nothing on the drawing board I can assure you of that."

Parker said the SCG surface for this Test was slightly grassier than usual because a recent Big Bash League fixture had encroached on his preparation time, but expected the strip to offer the sort of balance between ball and bat witnessed in recent summers. A sunny day will encourage batting, while overcast skies may result in the seam-friendly conditions offered to Pakistan on day one in 2010.

"It has a green tinge to this pitch and we had BBL match here on the 29th so we had to limit our preparations so we could ensure if someone ran across this pitch it didn't get damaged in that match," Parker said. "But in saying that beautiful humid, hot day today. Been here for hours on the heavy roller, we've cut that down now at 3mm and we'll be cutting it again and rolling it again so a lot of that greenness will go out of it.

"I anticipate it's going to be very similar to what we've seen here last year. More looking for good, consistent carry to the keeper, should see a bit of bounce in this pitch as well given the amount of grass on it and the mature grass that's on this pitch. It's different to tour match pitch here earlier in the season when we were changing over from AFL and we didn't have as much time.

"If it's overcast and the forecast is for some possible light showers or drizzly rain and if it's like that you may well bowl. And I think you've seen here in the past when it's overcast and cloudy the ball does move around a bit here at the SCG, so we've really got to wait for the day and hopefully it's a bright sunny day."

Parker was one of the nation's groundsmen directed by Cricket Australia at the outset of summer to prepare surfaces less grassy and more reflective of international conditions for the Sheffield Shield. Several curators were unhappy to be dictated to, and Parker stated his own intentions with similar bluntness.

"I prepare a pitch that's fair and just for both teams," he said. "I'm not about preparing pitches for batters or bowlers or any other side."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by   on (January 4, 2014, 9:07 GMT)

Lords now has a drop in pitch available, it's not been used on the main square though! It was decided it was technology that was needed in England.

Posted by   on (January 3, 2014, 4:34 GMT)

If it weren't for cricket, AFL wouldn't exist, it was invented to keep cricketers fit in the winter. AFL should always be secondary to cricket.

Posted by kepler22b on (January 3, 2014, 4:14 GMT)

Posted by Neil Dyer on (January 2, 2014, 12:31 GMT)

my point is, in simpler terms for you as it seems to be required, is that aussie rules decides what happens with pitches because they pay for the ground improvements. Enjoy your sooker - what a sad, unmanly sport.

Talalthegreat

Thanks for that but completely irrelevant. How many people go to the shield - oh 5 men and a dog. The MCG has a drop in pitch because mud in the middle injures footy players.

Macker60 on (January 3, 2014, 0:39 GMT) Thanks mate.

If you don't get it, I love cricket but Parker is dreamin. He's a curator and long gone are they days when somebody who grows grass for a living decides what happens at multi billion dollar venues.

Posted by Macker60 on (January 3, 2014, 0:39 GMT)

Talalthegreat, Tell me Again why the Wacca Is being dropped next year, And not Adelaide of the Gabba, All Football in Australia is and has been Paying for the Cricket grounds for decades, And Also remind me Why the Thousand of supporter can only go to a Australian Match but are too busy for state games. Also Down at the Beach Last week Saw People Kicking a Football, No Cricket needs to work with Football in this Country for the grounds to Survive, Neil Dyer Even when most Australians are apparently still not refined enough to understand cricket and prefer to watch all-in wrestling, We still get more crowds to the Games than you guys in the so called Mother country, And have a Higher Percentage per population Playing the game. Which is why with enjoy winning

Posted by   on (January 2, 2014, 22:59 GMT)

Talathegreat - well MCG and SCG does stand for Melbourne Crciket Ground and Sydbey Cricket Ground...so you have a point. And yes, cricket is our one unifying national sport, and to an extent so is swimming as far as participation are concerned.

Posted by ChuckerCarn on (January 2, 2014, 22:30 GMT)

A lot said about Australia only winning the first test because they won the toss, as I recall the Aussies were plenty for not many early on. Plainly there was enough in the wicket for the bowlers on Day 1. Haddin saved the day for Australia in Brisbane, Cook faltered and the Ashes were lost and none of it was to do with the pitch or the toss. England lacked a class third seamer and have done for much of the series.

Posted by Talalthegreat on (January 2, 2014, 15:50 GMT)

@kepler22b mate, u don't know too much. In Australia cricket is the most popular sport. It is the national sport, has the most number of participants more than football codes and anything else. Also 52% Aussies take a keen interest in cricket. It is largely played as well as it can be played in a backyard or at a beach. Unlike footy. Even if these stadiums are used for AFL these are cricket stadiums and AFL should be grateful that their matches are allowed here

Posted by pitch_curator on (January 2, 2014, 13:41 GMT)

@ Silly_mid_on - "Stop the bad pitches" - Do you mean spin pitches where the aussies do not know how to bat? When Australia last visited here, Indian batsmen scored tons of runs and Indian bowlers picked heaps of wickets. So, nothing wrong with the pitches. Maybe, just maybe the aussies do not know how to play spinners and do not have good spinners. Spin bowling is also bowling, in case you did not know. And they should constitute 50% of the "attack" -- to pick wickets not to give the fast bowlers a rest.

Posted by   on (January 2, 2014, 12:31 GMT)

@kepler22b And your point is? It's no surprise to us here in the mother country that most Australians are apparently still not refined enough to understand cricket and prefer to watch all-in wrestling. That's what makes losing at cricket even harder to bear!

Posted by Westmorlandia on (January 2, 2014, 12:04 GMT)

@silly_mid_on: "Melbourne was a drop in, and it was the best pitch of the series"

Not sure I agree. It was pretty stodgy to start with - though not much for the bowlers either, so a bit dull. It then favoured the batters much more by the time of each team's second innings - so again without much for the bowlers (though England made up for that by giving away all their wickets).

I agree that you don't want the toss to be too important in the game, but you do want pitches where there is something for both seamers and spinners to work with at different points in the game. You also want a true bounce for the batsmen, to avoid the ball sticking in the pitch, as that doesn't do much except slow the scoring down.

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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