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The pitch in the Rawalpindi Test between Pakistan and Australia, where 1187 runs were scored for the loss of 14 wickets, has been rated "below average" by match referee Ranjan Madugalle.
"The character of the pitch hardly changed over the course of five days and that there has been no deterioration apart from the bounce getting slightly lower," Madugalle said in his report. "The pitch did not have a great deal of pace and bounce in it for the seamers nor assisted the spinners as the match progressed. "In my view this does not represent an even contest between bat and ball. Therefore, in keeping with the ICC guidelines I rate this pitch as below average."
"We note and accept the ICC's decision," a PCB spokesperson said. "This is the first time any Pakistan venue has received a demerit point. The PCB wants to see and prepare pitches that provide even and exciting contest between the bat and the ball. In this regard and in line with the PCB Chairman's vision, a massive project to overhaul and relay all pitches in Pakistan is already underway.
"The PCB remains confident and optimistic that we will not only see good contests in the Karachi and Lahore Tests but in all future domestic international matches as well."
The drawn first Test surface that was described as "dead" by Steven Smith and "not a good advertisement for Test cricket" by PCB chairman Ramiz Raja has therefore been given one demerit point. Had the pitch been marked as "poor" or "unfit" then the ground would've earned three or five demerit points respectively.
According to the laws, "when a venue accumulates five demerit points (or crosses that threshold), it will be suspended from hosting any international cricket for a period of 12 months, while a venue will be suspended from staging any international cricket for 24 months when it reaches the threshold of 10 demerit points." Demerit points will remain active for a rolling five-year period.
The ICC had revised its pitch and outfield monitoring process in January 2018. Under the guidelines, each pitch hosting an international game receives one of the following six ratings: Very Good, Good, Average, Below Average, Poor, Unfit. The Pallekele pitch was the last one to get the 'below average' rating for the second test between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in 2021.
The three-Test series is part of the World Test Championship, with the second match set to begin on March 12 in Karachi and the third one on March 21 in Lahore.