Is a turning pitch a bad pitch?

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In our book, all pitches are acceptable unless they result in boring cricket. For what it’s worth, our book is entitled The Book of Unarguable Facts.

Some dude in Mohali has curated a cracker (curators curate, yes?) for the first Test between India and South Africa. Flat on a seamer’s length and scuffed to buggery on a spinner’s length it delivers exactly what a Test pitch should – a tough challenge for the touring side.

Dean Elgar wasn’t happy with it, even though he took four wickets on the first day. “I don’t think it’s a very good cricket wicket,” he said. “It is my personal opinion. It is a result wicket.”

Interesting that Elgar equates result wickets with not-very-good wickets – for what are cricket matches about if not attaining a result? It seems the myth of the ‘good’ cricket pitch still persists.

There’s a common belief that green pitches are fair because they subsequently flatten out, while turning pitches are unfair because they deteriorate further. But is this the case? We need only review a week’s worth of Test history to find at least two examples where it hasn’t really worked out like that.

The first, second and third innings of the third Test between Pakistan and England featured escalating scores, while India are now 125-2 in their second innings, which hardly implies a making-a-mockery-of-our-noble-sport minefield.

Play on turning pitches, play on greentops, play on pock-marked concrete if you want – but only judge the quality of the pitch at the match’s conclusion.


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  1. I guess, Elgar was scared because – he must have thought – if he himself took 4 wickets, then what would happen, when, Ashwin & Jadeja bowled together…

    I enjoy *watching* test matches on bowler friendly pitches as something is always happening and batsmen need to bat out of their skin like KP(DeVilliers) or dig deep into their reserves like Cook(Amla)

    What is unfair tho is that, 3-day pitches, actually reduce the skill & ODDs difference between home team & visitors, & match basically becomes a lottery where a single or couple of performances can become match winning & all others become passengers.

    Another problem is that players without much skill like “bowler” Clarke who just darted the ball in (without any flight or revolution unlike say a Panesar), suddenly become unplayable bowlers & match-winners. Huge potential for this to backfire on India, if Amla/DeVilliers get going like Cook/KP

      1. And the beast shall rise and lay waste to the world and to the creatures of the Lord and in its place he will leave a wilderness, like unto that of the Nagpur 2011 pitch and all shall weep and know no succour

        Revelation 23.14 (if you read it drunk, through a wooly hat while conducting a kazoo orchestra)

  2. Curators gonna curate.

    Any pitch which keeps everybody interested in the possibility of a result is a decent wicket, and some meaningful contest between bat and ball. The home side can prepare whatever surface they like and it’s up to the touring side to learn and adapt to those conditions – something we’ve not been able to do in the UAE very effectively; maybe the whole pitch-favouring-home-sides debate is more a factor of much shorter modern-era tours and the almost complete lack of any time to adjust to foreign conditions?

    Nagpur 2012 wasn’t a bad pitch – we won in India for the first time in a generation after a draw on it! Trotty got big runs on it! Who doesn’t wish Trotty could still be getting big runs (except the teams he got them against).

    Lord’s 2006 turned into a shocker ( although that may have had less to do with the pitch and more with dropped catches, and the bogie scores of 551/6d and Pietersen 158, both of which also occurred in the Test Match That Shall Never Be Spoken Of Again.

    1. I followed every single ball of Nagpur (and Trent Bridge 2014) and both were bad pitches, even if Trott scored big and England carried home the day at the end.

  3. I agree that Elgar’s comments were a bit over the top but we don’t a game that ends in a boring draw on a road or neither we want a game to be finishing in 3 days on a minefield from day 1. I don’t know what this pitch is exactly. Thought it’s a 220-250 first innings sort of wicket. Some fuller area does look like producing wears from day 1 (first session). Come day 3, this will deteriorate further. Also mind India is batting well esp Pujara who is a great player of turning pitches and spin. So 120 odd with 2 wickets down does not really reflect what’s going on with the pitch.

    1. That’s very much the point though, isn’t it? How can you criticise the pitch after one day?

    1. Me too. Would he make it in at 3 in your Post-1990 England XI, should you happen to try and compile one? (Sorry for the time you’re now possibly going to spend on this that you’ll never get back!)

      1. Weirdly, we spent much of last week thinking about precisely that. Yes he would in our case.

      2. A mate and I agonised over it for hours. We’re both mid-30s so this is all we’ve known – suffice it to say, not many of the 90s mob would make the cut. Conversely, a Post-1990 England Novelty XI would predominantly feature said players.

        I still can’t bring myself to commit to the final XI (got it down to about 14/15; Prior or Stewart with the gloves? Left-armer? Cook or Strauss to open with Tres? Thorpe or Vaughan?) but yes, Trotty would be there at 3.

      3. FWIW at the moment I’m going to go with


      4. Peak Vaughan maybe, but Cook is actually better. Gooch also acceptable.

        Everyone goes for Stewart. He was a top batsman and a top wicketkeeper, but rarely at the same time. He wasn’t keeping wicket for nine of his hundreds. (Actually, he wasn’t keeping wicket for any of them – he was batting – but you know what we mean.)

      5. Is it anyone who played for England after 1990, or who made their debut after 1990? Is Gooch eligible?

      6. I think to make it slightly less arbitrary, it should be based on test performances from 1990 onwards, not just debutants post-1990, but as I’m a Somerset lad born and bred and Tres is therefore something of a God to me, I had to make the tough decision to leave out Gooch, even though the best of his career statistically was in the 90s… he was terrible after 93 however!

      7. I think Cook has to be in there.

        Are we allowed to pick players “at their peak and in their prime” or is it over a whole (post-90s) career? If the former then Vaughan is an absolutely solid choice, but if not then there’d be some competition for his spot.

        Similarly, if we are allowed to pick bowlers at the top of their form, would Harmy be in with a shout? Simon Jones? I rated Jones, reckoned that if he hadn’t got injured he might just have gone on to be an all-time great.

        With Broad, would you pick him at peak bowling? Or at peak batting?

      8. Agree re Jones, Bailout – and it was a tough decision not to pick him but I decided on the basis of overall career showing in the qualifying period and wanted Vaughan in there as Captain (Obvious) alone – he’s the best captain of ‘my’ generation, I’d say, and his record as batsman was good overall, albeit he never replicated that golden run in 2001/02.

  4. The point is to have a meaningful contest between bat and ball. When it finishes inside 3 days it is not a meaningful contest between bat and ball.

    1. People always say this. We’re never quite sure why tough innings are considered meaningless.

      India twice made 200. That seems a perfectly reasonable, normal score to us.

  5. Theory: South Africa are not the side they once were and England have a chance against them this winter.

    1. Do South Africa really need to not be the side they were for England to have a chance? We’d say England are always in with a chance in seaming conditions. They only really need weak opposition or to be unusually strong themselves to compete in places like the UAE.

    2. That South Africa v England series starting on Boxing Day is a mouth-watering prospect.

      South Africa start as favourites of course, with the home advantage and great stars such as Amla, DeVilliers, Steyn and Philander. But England also have a quartet of stars in similar departments and neither side has quite the depth they had at their respective peaks in the last ten years or so. England most certainly has a reasonable chance.

  6. I’m with KC on the notion that a low scoring first class match is very often a good battle between bat and ball.

    If the pitch is actually dangerous or such a raging bunsen that no-one can score runs, then it is rightly assessed as a poor pitch. That happens very rarely.

    Far more often, you end up with high scoring matches on unhelpful pitches that cannot be resolved within four or five days without sporting declarations or indeed cannot be resolved even with them. Those sorts of matches are not good battles between bat and ball, yet only very recently have the umpires/pitch inspectors been given licence to rate such pitches as poor for their unhelpfulness.

    Hopefully, that change in pitch-rating policy will lead to fewer dull matches and therefore better cricket.

    English groundsmen should look at the end-shaving technique used by the Mohali authorities and think about using same in domestic cricket here in England. We cannot replicate Asian weather conditions but we could at least take some deliberate steps to prepare pitches that might help the spinners a bit more.

    1. I detest “sporting” declarations. Declaration bowling can be quite funny sometimes, but it’s the kind of farce that fails the “could you explain it to an American while somehow keeping a straight face that this was a positive part of the game and something spectators should be charged to see” test.

  7. As a mid – 30s Indian who’s followed the English travails of the 90s, collective emotional release of 2005, and subsequent rise, here’s my England XI :


    12th: Collingwood

    1. Just realised there’s no obvious Captain (or Captain Obvious? Hehe). Don’t mind Cook on most recent evidence. Dare I say, KP?

    2. Lathwell
      Gallian (c)

      12th Capel

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