Australia v England, 5th Test, Sydney January 2, 2014

SCG steadfast against drop-in pitches

19

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • HenryPorter on January 2, 2014, 11:17 GMT

    Surface variation around the world is the great test that cricket has in common with golf & tennis - all of which also require prolonged excellence over many days to succeed in the biggest games/series/tournaments. Baseball, soccer, basketball, rugby, hockey & so many more ball-based-sports are missing that wonderful spice.

  • heathrf1974 on January 2, 2014, 10:37 GMT

    I hope the wicket takes spin during the third day. The variation in test wickets is one of Australian cricket's strengths.

  • kepler22b on January 2, 2014, 10:27 GMT

    What a laugh. Do you see all those new grand stands. They were paid for by aussie rules. The SCG is attended by cricket fans 5 days for tests and a few 20/20 matches (if Sydney siders can be bothered) . For the rest of the year 20-30k attend the 10 Sydney swans footy matches which pay for the new facilities.

    If you're not from oz, the MCG holds 100k because of aussie rules. In winter it gets up to 200k for 2-3 weekend matches (they had 92k to one normal match this year). It's the same in Adelaide (did you see the new stands - they're not being built for cricket) and to a lesser extent Brisbane. The WACA, which is only a cricket ground, is the laughing stock of Australian venues. It will die and be replaced by a new aussie rules venue being built nearby.

    I love cricket but silly_mid_on is right, Sydney will be forced to move with the times. Tom Parker needs to watch The Castle - 'tell 'im he's dreamin'

  • dunger.bob on January 2, 2014, 9:40 GMT

    "I'm not going to be told what sort of pitch to prepare". .. Magnificent.

    I like to think of Australia as the last bastion of old-school cricket. Pitches don't have to be belters to give us a good game of cricket. Most teams have 4 or 5 bowlers as well you know. It's only fair that they are given a bit to work with as well as the batsmen. .. The game isn't called "Bat" for a very good reason. .. Make all the pitches bog standard uniform and you may as well ditch the bowlers all together and just send guys in against a bowling machine. But you better make sure its a bog standard bowling machine or some precious batsman might be disadvantaged.

  • lefty105 on January 2, 2014, 8:57 GMT

    Another thank goodness for that.If we don't want to have different pitches with local characteristics let us go back to malthoid on concrete perhaps, "traditional" Australian country pitch ?

  • Swan_Draught on January 2, 2014, 8:15 GMT

    The WACA and Bellerive are also drop in free Mr Parker

  • MrKricket on January 2, 2014, 7:50 GMT

    Yes don't let the muddied oafs of winter dictate how our Test pitches should behave. You might as well go back to coir matting as make every pitch a drop-in. May the SCG pitch with its famous Bulli soil, the same that Don Bradman cut his teeth on, survive as long as the game lasts.

  • silly_mid_on on January 2, 2014, 7:45 GMT

    Melbourne was a drop in, and it was the best pitch of the series. Australia won in Brisbane and Perth because they won the toss. Melbourne was fair to both sides regardless of who won the toss, it could have gone eaith way. Nothing wrong with drop in pitches, they may even be better. one day tests will be played on synthetic wickets, to stop the bad pitches we see in India and elsewhere.

  • Meety on January 2, 2014, 7:17 GMT

    Thank goodness for that. In fairness to the MCG & Adelaide - Sydney being a fair bit further north would mean that the pitch is better able to recover post AFL. Long may Sydney & the Gabba be drop-in free.

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  • Meety on January 2, 2014, 7:17 GMT

    Thank goodness for that. In fairness to the MCG & Adelaide - Sydney being a fair bit further north would mean that the pitch is better able to recover post AFL. Long may Sydney & the Gabba be drop-in free.

  • silly_mid_on on January 2, 2014, 7:45 GMT

    Melbourne was a drop in, and it was the best pitch of the series. Australia won in Brisbane and Perth because they won the toss. Melbourne was fair to both sides regardless of who won the toss, it could have gone eaith way. Nothing wrong with drop in pitches, they may even be better. one day tests will be played on synthetic wickets, to stop the bad pitches we see in India and elsewhere.

  • MrKricket on January 2, 2014, 7:50 GMT

    Yes don't let the muddied oafs of winter dictate how our Test pitches should behave. You might as well go back to coir matting as make every pitch a drop-in. May the SCG pitch with its famous Bulli soil, the same that Don Bradman cut his teeth on, survive as long as the game lasts.

  • Swan_Draught on January 2, 2014, 8:15 GMT

    The WACA and Bellerive are also drop in free Mr Parker

  • lefty105 on January 2, 2014, 8:57 GMT

    Another thank goodness for that.If we don't want to have different pitches with local characteristics let us go back to malthoid on concrete perhaps, "traditional" Australian country pitch ?

  • dunger.bob on January 2, 2014, 9:40 GMT

    "I'm not going to be told what sort of pitch to prepare". .. Magnificent.

    I like to think of Australia as the last bastion of old-school cricket. Pitches don't have to be belters to give us a good game of cricket. Most teams have 4 or 5 bowlers as well you know. It's only fair that they are given a bit to work with as well as the batsmen. .. The game isn't called "Bat" for a very good reason. .. Make all the pitches bog standard uniform and you may as well ditch the bowlers all together and just send guys in against a bowling machine. But you better make sure its a bog standard bowling machine or some precious batsman might be disadvantaged.

  • kepler22b on January 2, 2014, 10:27 GMT

    What a laugh. Do you see all those new grand stands. They were paid for by aussie rules. The SCG is attended by cricket fans 5 days for tests and a few 20/20 matches (if Sydney siders can be bothered) . For the rest of the year 20-30k attend the 10 Sydney swans footy matches which pay for the new facilities.

    If you're not from oz, the MCG holds 100k because of aussie rules. In winter it gets up to 200k for 2-3 weekend matches (they had 92k to one normal match this year). It's the same in Adelaide (did you see the new stands - they're not being built for cricket) and to a lesser extent Brisbane. The WACA, which is only a cricket ground, is the laughing stock of Australian venues. It will die and be replaced by a new aussie rules venue being built nearby.

    I love cricket but silly_mid_on is right, Sydney will be forced to move with the times. Tom Parker needs to watch The Castle - 'tell 'im he's dreamin'

  • heathrf1974 on January 2, 2014, 10:37 GMT

    I hope the wicket takes spin during the third day. The variation in test wickets is one of Australian cricket's strengths.

  • HenryPorter on January 2, 2014, 11:17 GMT

    Surface variation around the world is the great test that cricket has in common with golf & tennis - all of which also require prolonged excellence over many days to succeed in the biggest games/series/tournaments. Baseball, soccer, basketball, rugby, hockey & so many more ball-based-sports are missing that wonderful spice.

  • 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.