Wanderers Pitch Deemed “Poor”: The Wanderers cannot afford any errors with pitch preparation over the next five years after the ICC confirmed that the surface used in the third Test between South Africa and India was rated as ‘poor’ by match referee Andy Pycroft. As a result, the venue was hit with three demerit points under a new system that was introduced by the ICC this month. Another two demerit points within a five-year period will lead to a 12-month ban from international cricket.
While Cricket South Africa have a right of appeal, they would appear to face a difficult job overturning the verdict. Concerns over the state of the wicket reached fever pitch on day three, when the unpredictable bounce led to a number of India’s batsmen suffering blows to the body and the day’s play was curtailed when Dean Elgar incurred a blow to the head.
The match continued on day four after the officials declared it was safe to continue, but while Elgar batted on bravely and carried his bat in a South African defeat, he later said that the game should have been called off.
Some of Elgar’s concerns were mirrored in Pycroft’s official report, which the ICC released on Tuesday (January 30).
“The pitch prepared for the final Test was a poor one,” said Pycroft. “It had excessively steep and unpredictable bounce, and excessive seam movement. It deteriorated quickly as the match progressed, which made batting extremely difficult and hazardous, resulting in the medical staff from both the sides having to come onto the field of play multiple times to treat their batsmen.
“As the on-field umpires are also responsible for the players’ safety, they expressed concerns about the behaviour of the pitch, and debated after day three if it was appropriate to continue the match. In the end, the umpires made the decision to continue and the Test reached its natural conclusion on day four. However, there was still excessive variable bounce and seam movement when the Test match ended.”
The ICC’s announcement capped a series that was dominated by talk of pitches – a hangover from South Africa’s 2015 tour of India when the excessive turn led to the pitch in Nagpur to be rated ‘poor’. Eager to exact an advantage by preparing sporting wickets, South Africa asked for pace and bounce from their groundsmen. But they were disappointed by a dry surface at Centurion that was rated ‘average’ by the ICC, and got more than they asked for at the Wanderers.
After losing the third Test by 63 runs, captain Faf du Plessis admitted that the extra pressure from the team’s requests might be getting to groundsmen, but suggested that they needed to up their game.
“I’m in an environment where I have to score runs and perform, so it’s the same (for groundsmen). If there is an option to get a pitch in the way that we want to, you would hope that the experience would be there to get the pitches right.”
It is the first time that a pitch in South Africa has been rated ‘poor’. Australia recently suffered the same fate when the pitch for the fourth Ashes Test against England at the MCG was rated ‘poor’, but the ground escaped any demerit points because the new disciplinary system was not yet in place.
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