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The International Cricket Council (ICC) has issued an official warning to Trent Bridge, the venue of the first Test between England and India. Abhishek Mukherjee explains why the verdict is justified.
David Boon, the match referee for the Trent Bridge Test between India and England, had issued a report; based on it, the ICC General Manager Geoff Allardice and the chief match referee Ranjan Madugalle have passed a simple yet strong warning to the historic ground: “The monitoring of the pitch preparation by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) before the Test was appropriate.”
Finally, on one of those rare occasions, justice has been served; on many an occasion the pitch has been blamed for being supportive to the bowlers; wickets in New Zealand have been criticised for having too much grass, as have been pitches at Western Australia Cricket Association (WACA) or Kensington Oval or Sabina Park for their notorious bounce.
Teams in the subcontinent have perhaps taken the worse flak: the way pitches have been criticised for turning square early in the Test and the balls spitting and bouncing from spots on “dustbowls” with hawks prowling around the bat with in absolute concentration, waiting to gobble up every possible opportunity.
It was ridiculous, the way pitches producing quick results have been classified as poor, even wretched; for whatever reason, flat tracks have almost never had to bear the brunt (the only exceptions being the cricket fans repelled by matches that became pointless by the time the Test reached Day Five.)
The last occasion when a Test was drawn without any fourth innings was between Bangladesh and New Zealand at Mirpur in October 2013, but the final day was rained off; to find the last Test where a match had been played on all five days but had never reached the fourth innings one needs to go back to the Nagpur Test of December 2012, where England had scored 330 and 352 for four and India 326. The scenario, however, was different: England needed to draw the Test to win a series on Indian soil after a 27-year long gap.
Trent Bridge was different: both no. 11s scored hundreds; both last-wicket partnerships added hundreds; a number nine scored two fifties; several records tumbled; there were 12 fifty-plus scores; and barring Bhuvneshwar Kumar few managed any kind of purchase from the track. India were in a spot of bother at 184 for six (they had conceded a 39-run lead in the first innings), but fifties from Stuart Binny and Bhuvneshwar had ensured a comfortable draw.
In other words, the conditions were heavily loaded towards batsmen; it has taken ICC some time to come out with the overdue verdict, but finally a pitch has been called “poor” on the ground that it was too flat and batsman-friendly.
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