Watching a tedious Test played to a draw in roasting heat on a dead Abu Dhabi surface recently, I wondered: will anyone ever receive an official warning for preparing a pitch like this?
After Sri Lanka's bizarre first-day capitulation for 197, barely two more innings were completed in the rest of the match as the surface got slower and less responsive.
Sri Lankan pacer Chanaka Welegedara, foreground, and teammate Kumar Sangakkara, wearing hat, unsuccessfully appeal for a leg-before-wicket decision against Pakistani batsman Taufiq Umar, not in photo, during the second day of their test at Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Oct. 19.
By contrast, when Sri Lanka recently lost to Australia at Galle in the first match of a three-Test series that they also lost, they were officially warned by the International Cricket Council for a pitch that proved extremely challenging to bat on. Handing down the ruling, the game's governing body described the pitch as "poor," and while Sri Lanka escaped a fine, they will have to submit a report about what corrective measures they intend to take, and the ICC will examine the pitch again.
The bounce at Galle was inconsistent and the ball turned sharply from day one, something that it usually does as the game progresses and the surface of the pitch becomes abrasive, allowing the spinning ball to grip. This is generally considered a "bad" pitch, while one that's true and easy to score on is regarded as "good." There's only one problem: pitches like the latter make for dull games that end in draws, while the Galle match was a cracker-exciting, topsy-turvy, genuinely testing the batsmen's skills. The "good" pitch in Abu Dhabi, by contrast, tested only the patience of the audience.
Putting a Spin on It
The diversity of pitches, Sri Lanka's pitches have a reputation for being low, slow and full of runs, especially the bowlers' graveyard that is Colombo's Sinhalese Sports Club. But, as on most slow surfaces, spin is always a factor in the country, and never more so than on the dusty surface at Galle, which turned sideways from the first day in the recent match against Australia. The only Sri Lankan pitch to help the seamers is at Dambulla, but that's just used for one-day internationals.
Like the country that hosts them, India's pitches are hugely diverse, but like Sri Lanka's, most have little bounce or lateral movement for the seamers, and favor spin, but are frequently very batsman-friendly. Neighboring Pakistan is similar, but there, abrasive surfaces are more likely to produce reverse swing for the quicker men.
There's usually swing on offer both in England and New Zealand, with their similar climates, plus seam movement off green, juicy wickets. Recently England in particular has also produced fast, bouncy, free-scoring tracks.
Pitches in the West Indies were traditionally fast and bouncy, favoring the home side's battery of pace bowlers, but these days they're frequently high-scoring and spin-friendly.
There's pace, bounce and movement in South Africa, which has been statistically the toughest country for batsmen recently, but little for spinners.
Australian pitches are hard and bouncy, with Perth's WACA perhaps the world's fastest. Spicy against the new ball, they tend to settle down and be good to bat on later.
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