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Thread: What makes a good test pitch?

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    Cricket Web Staff Member Black_Warrior's Avatar
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    What makes a good test pitch?

    Looking at the very interesting discussions going on in the India-South Africa tour thread and different people offering their viewpoints on the pitch conditions, I just wanted to have a conversation about pitches independent of the current India-South Africa series. Because what's happening in the tour thread is that it's becoming a bit like India vs when England and Australia or New Zealand produce their pitches.

    I think that's preventing us from having a genuine conversation on pitches. I think this is a very interesting discussion because pitch is such an important factor in test cricket and now in the era of home track bullies, pitches are always being hotly debated. But different people have different views on what they expect from a good test pitch.

    So let's get the ball rolling.

    Tell us what your definition of a good test pitch is, give us examples and scenarios, and make it as detailed as you can for a quality discussion.

    And please, no troll posts please, let's not ruin the environment.
    Last edited by Black_Warrior; 26-11-2015 at 11:51 PM.
    "This is a clash of strategy. And of methods, culture and politics. This is a new-era rivalry. Not as ancient as the Ashes, or as passionate as India-Pakistan. Two countries that are so different, yet share rampant egotism, high self-opinion and a belief that being born in their country is superior to other births. This brings together a belligerent bunch of brats, bullies and braggers."- Jarrod Kimber

  2. #2
    Cricket Web Staff Member Black_Warrior's Avatar
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    To get the ball rolling, I just came across this interesting piece on Cricinfo by KARTHIK KRISHNASWAMY

    Nottingham, August 2015. Stuart Broad seams the ball off a green pitch and runs through Australia, who are bowled out for 60. Their innings lasts all of 18.3 overs.

    Nagpur, November 2015. R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja spin South Africa out for 79 on a second-day surface riddled with cracks and frequently throwing up puffs of dust. Their innings lasts 33.1 overs.

    What's the difference?

    At Trent Bridge, Broad keeps the seam upright, and keeps everything in the corridor outside off stump. Some balls move in, others leave the batsman. It is hard to tell if Broad himself knows which way the ball will go.

    At the VCA Stadium, Jadeja fires the ball into the surface, in line with the stumps. The ball sometimes spits away from the right-hand batsman and at other times hurries through with the angle - very often, both outcomes come about with Jadeja spinning the ball with the same force and the same angle of rotation.

    What's the difference?

    "What's the difference?" is often India's retort when anyone questions their desire to play on pitches that turn sharply from day one. Every player or member of their support staff, when sent out for press conferences during home Tests, brings up teams preparing greentops when India go abroad. Why then, they ask, should India not prepare turners at home?

    Ashwin did the same on Thursday, except, instead of using one of India's away Tests for the comparison, he brought up the Trent Bridge Ashes Test.

    "Swing, seam and bounce, two days match over at Trent Bridge, I don't know what's that about. What's the problem with spin and bounce? It is good, even spin and bounce, isn't it? It is about skill for batsmen to play it and counter it."

    There is nothing wrong with turn and bounce, per se. A pitch offering seam movement and another offering sharp turn are equally good surfaces, provided the pace and bounce are consistent. But there is a difference between the kind of assistance England's seamers enjoyed at Nottingham and the kind of help India's spinners got in Nagpur.

    At Trent Bridge, Australia's batsmen were unsure which way the ball would move after it pitched. But they could trust how quickly it came to them, and the extent of its bounce. Both were true, and anything straying from a good line or length could be put away safely. In Nagpur, in addition to not knowing how much, and if at all, the ball would turn, South Africa's batsmen - and indeed India's - seldom knew if the ball was going to stop on them or skid through quickly, and whether it would jump or keep low.

    On most seaming pitches, batsmen face a time-honoured challenge of footwork and compactness: to go fully forward or back, and play late and close to the body, to minimise the damage that the seaming ball can do. It is difficult, but not impossible. The challenge on good spinning pitches is similar: good footwork to go forward or back, soft hands in defence.

    On a surface such as the one in Nagpur, driving could be fraught with risk even if you got reasonably close to the pitch of the ball - as Shikhar Dhawan discovered during India's first innings. Even if you went deep in your crease to a short ball, it could stop on the pitch and surprise you - as AB de Villiers found out against Jadeja.

    A green, seaming pitch often gets better to bat on. That is why openers are advised to give the first hour to the bowlers. In Nottingham, the entire Australia line-up lasted just beyond that first hour. When England batted, the pitch had lost quite a bit of its initial freshness. Australia's bowlers, moreover, failed to land the ball as consistently in the channel or as consistently on the seam as Broad did. England replied with 391.


    AB de Villiers was lost for an explanation when the ball suddenly stopped on the pitch and turned a mile Associated Press
    A pitch that turns from the first day only gets worse to bat on. Since it is dry at the start, with no grass on its surface, there is nothing in the pitch to prevent it from crumbling rapidly under the sun and under constant bombardment by cricket balls and feet.

    This is why the classic subcontinental pitch starts out firm and flat. On day one, there is consistent pace and bounce, even if not in liberal measure, and a bit of spin. Fast bowlers can expect the new ball to swing for a short while, and the old ball to reverse, and in most cases get edges to carry to the keeper and slips. But the first two and a half days, by and large, are good for batting. First-innings totals are often big, but that is no guarantee of a win or draw. By day four, wear and tear could leave the pitch behaving like the Nagpur pitch did on day one.

    Such a pitch produces multi-dimensional cricket, rewarding both sound defensive batting and sound attacking batting, quality quick bowlers blessed with either pace or swing, particularly reverse, and accurate spinners, particularly those who can beat batsmen in the air.

    A pitch such as Nagpur - or Mohali during the first Test - produces cricket that is predictable and repetitive. Spinners fire the ball in quick, batsmen hope they get enough bad balls to score from before the inevitable good one comes along, and 200 is often a match-winning first-innings total. The entire match is often done and dusted - pun intended - within three days.

    Who wins in such a scenario? Often it is India, but the philosophical argument against such pitches extends far beyond the exaggerated home advantage they can offer. The argument against such pitches would remain the same even if India prepared such pitches against visiting teams with quality spin attacks - such as the current Pakistan side or the England of 2012 - and the three-day finishes also happen to be exciting.

    The odd shootout in a dustbowl can often invigorate a dull series, and occasionally a batsman might play an innings that is remembered decades down the line - such as Sunil Gavaskar's 96 in his farewell Test. But India's insistence on pitches that turn from day one is threatening to produce a monoculture of dustbowls and nothing else. It has not happened yet - Bangalore produced a good pitch for the second Test - but it seems to be heading in that direction. If that happens, it will only limit the otherwise vast possibilities of Test cricket in India.

    Russell Domingo, South Africa's coach, refused to criticise the Nagpur pitch - and gave credit to India's spinners for bowling with far more control than those from his side - but seemed to hint at the loss of those vast possibilities while describing how difficult batting had been, for both sides, during this series. He harked back to perhaps the greatest Test match played on Indian - or any - soil: Kolkata, 2001.

    A pitch such as Nagpur produces cricket that is predictable and repetitive. Spinners fire the ball in quick, batsmen hope they get enough bad balls to score from before the inevitable good one comes along, and 200 is often a match-winning first-innings total
    "I was watching some cricket on YouTube last night, India against Australia, with Dravid getting 180 and VVS getting 281. Those were great wickets to bat on. These haven't been, and the statistics show that no one has got runs. And that is the difference."

    India's last home win over South Africa before this series, in 2010, also came at the Eden Gardens. The win was achieved with a big margin - an innings and 57 runs - but only at the culmination of an exhausting effort of will and skill from pretty much all of their players.

    South Africa batted out 131.3 overs in their second innings in a dogged effort to save the match. Hashim Amla made centuries in both innings, and was still undefeated when Harbhajan Singh ended a stubborn last-wicket partnership with a mere nine balls left to play. It was Harbhajan's eighth wicket of the match, but it took him 72.3 overs of probing, untiring offspin to get them. There was turn and bounce on that pitch, but good batsmen could survive and make runs. India's two fast bowlers, Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma, played a big part in the win too, sending down 71 overs across the two innings and picking up seven wickets between them.

    It was a Test match that had tested everyone. India won, but so did Amla, his reputation as a world-class batsman greatly enhanced. So was South Africa's reputation, for having fought to within nine balls of saving a Test they seemed to have thrown away on the first day. The spectators got to watch a variety of skills being displayed over a full five days.

    Now, if India fulfill expectations and wrap up the Nagpur Test on Friday, they will have won a Test series against South Africa for the first time since 2004. They will have ended their opponents' nine-year unbeaten run away from home. But they will not have done it, and would not have had the chance to do it, by playing outstanding cricket. When they ended Australia's 16-match winning streak in 2001, they did it on good pitches. It felt a lot more special.

    Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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    Saw that yesterday,thought he made some really good points

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    Recent Sri Lankan pitches have been excellent; matches going into fifth day with results.
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    My knowledge of cricket is limited so this might be crap, a good test pitch has pace and bounce,grass on the pitch and moisture underneath, by lunch on the second day the grass is all but gone and the moisture underneath is essentialy gone to and it suits the batsmen, then the sun beats down, the elements take thier toll and bowlers footmarks etc means the pitch is dry and crumbling and spinners really come into play from the fourth day onwards, whilst the abrasive, dry and crumbling surface means some reverse and some balls might stop and cutters become effective, also perhaps more inconsistent bounce, then late on the fifth day maybe a prominent crack or two
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    One where for the entire five days wickets come only through either good bowling or bad batting, even-paced so that batsmen can freely play shots around the wicket, but movement for fast bowlers and turn for spinners. I have no examples, for this pitch is impossible.
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    Cricket Web Staff Member Black_Warrior's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RossTaylorsBox View Post
    One where for the entire five days wickets come only through either good bowling or bad batting, even-paced so that batsmen can freely play shots around the wicket, but movement for fast bowlers and turn for spinners. I have no examples, for this pitch is impossible.
    Yes but what are the elements that would make such a pitch? I would be interested to know what qualities the pitch should have for that to happen because I think most people would agree that a pitch where wickets come through good bowling or bad batting is an excellent pitch.

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    I like countries and places keeping thier characteristics cause that's what makes test so beautiful. So! youd probably keep more grass on the pitch and have more moisture underneath in england and newzealand, whereas in the subcontinent there would be less grass and moisture underneath so spin, reverse, cutters would come into play alot sooner and in south africa and australia you want alot of pace and bounce

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    Cricket Web: All-Time Legend zorax's Avatar
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    Now, if India fulfill expectations and wrap up the Nagpur Test on Friday, they will have won a Test series against South Africa for the first time since 2004. They will have ended their opponents' nine-year unbeaten run away from home. But they will not have done it, and would not have had the chance to do it, by playing outstanding cricket.
    What a pile of bull****.


    There is nothing wrong with turn and bounce, per se. A pitch offering seam movement and another offering sharp turn are equally good surfaces, provided the pace and bounce are consistent. But there is a difference between the kind of assistance England's seamers enjoyed at Nottingham and the kind of help India's spinners got in Nagpur.

    At Trent Bridge, Australia's batsmen were unsure which way the ball would move after it pitched. But they could trust how quickly it came to them, and the extent of its bounce. Both were true, and anything straying from a good line or length could be put away safely. In Nagpur, in addition to not knowing how much, and if at all, the ball would turn, South Africa's batsmen - and indeed India's - seldom knew if the ball was going to stop on them or skid through quickly, and whether it would jump or keep low.

    On most seaming pitches, batsmen face a time-honoured challenge of footwork and compactness: to go fully forward or back, and play late and close to the body, to minimise the damage that the seaming ball can do. It is difficult, but not impossible. The challenge on good spinning pitches is similar: good footwork to go forward or back, soft hands in defence.

    On a surface such as the one in Nagpur, driving could be fraught with risk even if you got reasonably close to the pitch of the ball - as Shikhar Dhawan discovered during India's first innings. Even if you went deep in your crease to a short ball, it could stop on the pitch and surprise you - as AB de Villiers found out against Jadeja.

    A green, seaming pitch often gets better to bat on. That is why openers are advised to give the first hour to the bowlers. In Nottingham, the entire Australia line-up lasted just beyond that first hour. When England batted, the pitch had lost quite a bit of its initial freshness. Australia's bowlers, moreover, failed to land the ball as consistently in the channel or as consistently on the seam as Broad did. England replied with 391.

    A pitch that turns from the first day only gets worse to bat on. Since it is dry at the start, with no grass on its surface, there is nothing in the pitch to prevent it from crumbling rapidly under the sun and under constant bombardment by cricket balls and feet.
    A) If the ball is stopping on you or bouncing inconsistently, play with soft hands. Stop driving the ball on the up. Play with a vertical bat and not an angled or horizontal one. Use your feet to get to the pitch of the ball as much as possible. Pad up properly. Leave deliveries that can be left. Why are you expecting techniques that work on 'time-honoured' (urgh) seaming and bouncing tracks to carry over to a turning one? It obviously won't. Adapt your game, don't blame the pitch.

    B) What's wrong with a pitch that starts and remains poor for batting throughout? Likewise, what's wrong with a flat deck? Why must all cricket be played in homogeneous conditions that meet some arbitrary standard? This is Test cricket, it's meant to be challenging. The word 'Test' is in the ****ing name. Part of the challenge is to adapt and succeed over a wide range of conditions.

    A pitch such as Nagpur - or Mohali during the first Test - produces cricket that is predictable and repetitive. Spinners fire the ball in quick, batsmen hope they get enough bad balls to score from before the inevitable good one comes along, and 200 is often a match-winning first-innings total. The entire match is often done and dusted - pun intended - within three days.
    Why is it predictable and repetitive when both sides bowl spinners at each other, but exciting and thrilling when two sides unleash pace bowling attacks at each other on a fast deck? Isn't this biased?


    IMO a good pitch is one that:
    - Makes for exciting viewing
    - Does not pose physical dangers to either side's players
    - Is possible to have a result on within 5 days (whether there is a result or not isn't relevant since that's down to the players involved a lot of the time; it just shouldn't be so flat and slow that basically anyone could bat a long time on it)

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    One where this happens
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    Cricket Web Staff Member Black_Warrior's Avatar
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    ^ Yeah I think what is raising so many questions and tweets and comments about this Nagpur pitch is the fact that during that game, England managed to score 390 batting on the same pitch..so that gave validity to the point that Australia got bowled out because they are ****. In this series, both sides are struggling and that's is causing such uproar.

    Amla and Faf are batting well now, let's see how the narrative plays out if one of them ton up.

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    Cricket Web Staff Member Howe_zat's Avatar
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    To think I almost forgot to watch that today

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    International Regular ohnoitsyou's Avatar
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    Plenty of seam on the first day, good to bat on for days 2-4 with a little bit of seam available and spin from day 3. The pitch to break up on day 5 to make batting difficult.

    Which pretty much doesn't exist. Hagley oval comes to mind, Seddon park if you don't mind slow and low.

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    Pitches that turn from the start can get easier to bat on if they slow down. Ahmedabad 2012 is an example.
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    Cricket Web Staff Member Black_Warrior's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ohnoitsyou View Post
    Plenty of seam on the first day, good to bat on for days 2-4 with a little bit of seam available and spin from day 3. The pitch to break up on day 5 to make batting difficult.

    Which pretty much doesn't exist. Hagley oval comes to mind, Seddon park if you don't mind slow and low.
    I think this is a match that quite fits that scenario you are describing. Or even this


    The thing is, there are a lot of factors at play here which is what makes this such a difficult and polarising topic. Groundsmen don't have complete control over the pitch. It's not an exact scientific mechanism. Plus a lot of the times, even with certain conditions, a match does not necessarily play out the way you expect because players adapt.

    For example, this particular game
    Pakistan pretty much blocked out Kumble and attacked the rest to have runs on the board, which ensured there was a fair bit of pressure and the fielders were never breathing down their neck. It was still a standard Day 4 and Day 5 pitch, but the players were able to adapt and come out on top.
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