@swaris16 3 minute read
The pitch used for the historic first Test between England and Pakistan at Rawalpindi has been criticised after the visitors reached a record-breaking 506-4 on the opening day on Thursday.
There are fears the venue could face a tightrope walk to avoid a ban from hosting international cricket, with the surface not the frist at the stadium to be questioned.
Four batters scored hundreds as England became the first team to make 500 on the opening day of a Test. They were led by their openers Zak Crawley and Ben Duckett, who scored a hundred each as they piled on 233 for the first wicket. Joe Root was the sole failure on the day with a knock of 23 after Ollie Pope and Harry Brook too reached triple digits.
Michael Atherton later said of the track, “It’s a while since I’ve seen one as flat as this. It looked unbelievably flat before the first ball went down. I bet Ben Stokes was praying with all the illness in the England camp, absolutely praying for that call to come down in his favour.”
Following the Australia-Pakistan Test this year, the track was rated ‘below average’ by the match referee, earning a demerit point, and it is surely in danger of being sanctioned again after the ongoing match. England ran up 657 at better than a run a ball, with Pakistan’s openers putting on 175 without loss in reply.
According to ICC’s Pitch and Outfield Monitoring Process, which is in use since January 2018, “the objective of a Test pitch shall be to allow all the individual skills of the game to be demonstrated by the players at various stages of the match. If anything, the balance of the contest between bat and ball in a Test match should slightly favour the bowling team” and “a pitch should be expected to deteriorate as the match progresses, and as a consequence, the bounce could become more inconsistent, and the ball could deviate more (seam and spin) off the wearing surface”.
The pitch can be rated poor in the following scenarios:
- The pitch offers excessive seam movement at any stage of the match
- The pitch displays excessive unevenness of bounce for any bowler at any stage of the match
- The pitch offers excessive assistance to spin bowlers, especially early in the match
- The pitch displays little or no seam movement or turn at any stage in the match together with no significant bounce or carry, thereby depriving the bowlers of a fair contest between bat and ball
- The pitch displays excessive moisture making its playing characteristics unpredictable, or excessive dryness leading to the surface to deteriorate.
According to the above conditions, the Rawalpindi wicket is on track to fulfil the “poor” criteria after it deprived the bowlers of a fair contest between bat and ball, with only four wickets falling in 75 overs on day one. The run rate through the opening day was 6.75 as the bowlers were made to toil without any help.
A pitch that is rated “below average” is docked one demerit point, while a “poor” rating leads to three demerit points. An unfit track gets five demerit points. All points given will remain active for a period of five years. If the pitch at one ground manages to accumulate five demerit points in this period, it will be suspended for a period of 12 months.
The pitch at Rawalpindi has already been given one demerit point at the start of the year, and a “poor” rating after the ongoing Test will see it being docked four demerit points in the span of a few months. Should the referee Andy Pycroft term the track “poor”, the pressure on the groundsmen will increase as another demerit point in the next four years will be enough for a suspension.
Overall, there have been three instances of a Test wicket being given a rating of “below average” in 2022. Besides the Rawalpindi pitch being docked a point after the first Test between Australia and Pakistan, the Chinnaswamy Stadium and the Galle Stadium got one demerit point each after the pitches used for India-Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka-Australia matches respectively did not meet the required criteria. However, since the new guidelines for rating pitches were introduced in 2018, only the Wanderers track between South Africa and India has been given a “poor” rating.