0 Wicked wicket slammed

The controversial Sydney Cricket Ground pitch, which has played a leading role in how the third Test has unfolded, came in for scathing criticism yesterday.

A senior cricket official in South Africa, watching the game on television, admitted that he would have been "run out of town" if his union had produced a similar surface for a Test match.

In Sydney this week, the senior groundsman at the SCG, Tom Parker, was fingered as the scapegoat. He told Australian reporters that he'd "under-watered" the pitch because rain had been forecast.

Very little of it fell on the pitch , so perhaps the weather bureau will be next in line for blame.

The pitch has developed three distinctive cracks the length of the wicket, the most dangerous of which was just on a length outside the offstump.

This is where Aussie fast bowler Mitchell Johnson managed to get a ball to land that unexpectedly steepled onto Graeme Smith's left hand, breaking his pinky finger during Sunday's play.

The South Africans suffered more on the pitch, which behaved erratically on Sunday. But once the Australians ordered the heavy roller on to it late on Monday, it appeared to tame some of the demons. Only five wickets fell on day three, with all the Australian batsmen making a contribution before Ricky Ponting declared with only four wickets down at 276, with a lead of 375.

The Proteas had asked for the light roller before they batted, but yesterday, ahead of the second innings, they quickly ordered up the heavier version.

The result of the heavy roller was quickly apparent. Apart from one ball, delivered by new Australian cap Andrew McDonald to Hashim Amla, there was no misbehaviour from the wicket.

Yesterday the state of the pitch was slammed by former England captain Tony Greig, while he was commentating for Channel 9 on Australian TV. Greig said the pitch was "dreadful".

"In my view it is a dreadful pitch. This is the sort of pitch where fingers do get broken. This pitch has been laid in such a way that there are straight lines [cracks] running down the pitch.

"They have only had 35 years to sort it out. It is just nice to be in the commentary box.''

The surface was unpredictable. When the occasional ball hit one of the cracks, especially the big crack on a length, it either bounced higher than usual, or kept very low.

Former Australian captain Mark Taylor was today quoted in News Ltd newspapers saying that many groundsmen around the world did not leave enough grass on their pitches.

"I think it is an ongoing problem. There seems to be a reluctance to leave grass on the pitch and have a bit of moisture there on day one,'' Taylor told News Ltd.

"Most groundsmen are worried about leaving grass because it will zing around in the first session. There is hardly a pitch in world cricket where a captain would want to bowl on day one.

"It [the SCG pitch] has cracked a lot more than it should have. The only thing I would say in the curator's defence is that it has been hot.''

South African wicketkeeper Mark Boucher said the pitch was one of three toughest he had ever played on. "It's not nice staring down the wicket and you make sure you run on the side of it so you don't fall down," Boucher said.

Source:-The Times

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