Tweaking pitches is hazardous

Before the commencement of the 2015 Ashes series England had made all the headlines with their aggressive, free-flowing and high-spirited brand of cricket. After finding themselves at 39 for three on the opening day, led by the attacking Joe Root, England proved that the antagonistic fundamentals instilled in this new style were here to stay.

Few days later, England lost a crucial toss then persisted with the attacking mindset on last session of Day two, lost four crucial wickets which eventually led to them losing the Test match.

The positive news for England is that they are intent on playing the brand of cricket that they have promised. Unfortunately for them, the administrators, led by cricketing director Andrew Strauss, push for docile pitches which is hindering their progression.

Perhaps it was the success of the 1st Test that prompted the Lord’s pitch to been ‘doctored’ into a docile state on the opening day.  Perhaps losing the toss was also a blessing in disguise. It exposed England strength of seam bowling and turned into mere weakness.

Last summer, England had found themselves 1-1 after three Tests against India. They had even managed to lose on the ‘greenest’ pitch ever laid out in Lord’s history. All sorts of pitch were experimented with and England were still searching for a 22-yard strip that will provide them a distinctive advantage.

Finally, for the 4th Test, the authorities put faith in a traditional Manchester pitch. Importantly, the warm summer had changed to a traditional ‘English summer’. It was cold, wet, overcast and gloomy, exactly like Edgbaston for the opening day of the 2015 third Ashes Test on Wednesday.

James Anderson and Stuart Broad ripped through India, it was classical seam and swing bowling. At the end of the day, Broad continued to echo the statement, “we just needed a pitch that had carry and only a tiny movement so we could exploit the conditions.”

Similarly, on Day One at Edgbaston, the grass on the pitch was minimal, but with carry. Importantly for England, the traditional English summer had kicked in to present the hosts with conditions they have thrived upon.

From the start of the series, England had been worried about the Australian bowlers rather than trusting their own. Come Cardiff, England felt they had the formula but were brought crashing down at Lords.

Edgbaston has once again lifted their hopes and possibly filled the last part of their jigsaw puzzle of the type of pitch required to beat Australia. England will be fully aware tweaking the pitches is a dangerous business. The weather and toss play a crucial role. So, instead of gambling it might be a wise to stick with a natural characteristics of a pitches rather than altering them. After all, not worrying about pitches worked in 2005, so why not now?


(Gaurav Joshi is an Indian-born Australian who played with Michael Clarke in his junior days. He coaches and reports for a Sydney radio station. Over the years he has freelanced for Australia Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and is a regular on ABC cricket show Cow Corner. He is the author of the book “Teen Thunder Down Under” – The inside story of India’s 2012 U19 World Cup Triumph)

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