Mud-slinging – the case for bowlers’ pitches

The first two rounds of County Championship cricket are all but over and unsurprisingly, given the fact it’s barely stopped being winter, there have been plenty of results. In fact, of the eleven completed matches at the time of writing, only one has got anywhere near being a draw. Furthermore, Surrey, presumably at the same time as chomping on a large bowl of sour grapes, today slated the pitch at Lord’s after losing by 3 runs to Middlesex.

But are low scores and plenty of wickets actually a problem? The thing that ensures cricket remains compelling is the balance between bat and ball. The very best pitches are ones which have something for the bowler that consistently pitches the ball in the right areas and something for batsmen who are prepared to bat properly and spend time at the crease building an innings. Personally, we’d much rather watch a low-scoring thriller such as was seen at Lord’s today than a never-ending Test match on a table-top in India or the West Indies. Just watching a little bit of the first session of the Test match at Antigua a few minutes ago, the pitch has all the life and pizzazz of a six-week old rice pudding and about as much bounce. Snore. If it wasn’t for the fact that both those sides are moderately inept, that one could already be marked down as a bore draw.

Obviously batsmen don’t agree with these interesting wickets – Rory Hamilton-Brown, the Surrey skipper, was livid at the difficulty of batting at Lord’s (despite the fact his side managed to rattle along at almost 3 1/2 an over in the fourth innings – can’t have been that hard, Rory, you should see some of the club pitches we play on) – but then batsmen have a pretty cushy time of it now what with massive bats and inpenetrable protective equipment. We doubt the IPL organisers would like such pitches in their games either – after all, who wants to watch a game where there aren’t at least 2 DLF maximums an over?

However, we think Surrey don’t have much to complain about. Yes, it’s not ideal, but it’s mid-April; you shouldn’t expect a batting paradise. There’s a perfectly good reason why before the advent of the covered pitch the County Championship didn’t start until the end of the month, because conditions were typically more suited to hippopotamuses than white flannel trousers. There’ll be plenty of summer to come (hopefully) where pitches will have precious little in it for the bowlers.

It’s been pleasing to see that most of the Test pitches over the last six months or so have had plenty of help for the bowlers. There was a real danger that Test matches were going to become an excuse for batting records to pile up. As it happens, we’ve seen the emergence of a potentially world-class swing bowler, lots of five-fors and all-round exciting cricket. There absolutely is a place for the draw in cricket, but it should only happen if it’s earnt by one or both sides, not merely because the game is too short to sensibly reach a conclusion. It’s an entertainment business, folks, and the punters like to see the clatter of wickets

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