An ECB pitch panel has decided that no penalty points are warranted for the Lord’s strip prepared for the current Middlesex v Kent County Championship match in which 23 wickets fell on the opening day.
The panel, however, have ruled the pitch “below average” as Middlesex receive a rap over the knuckles for a pitch which started, in the words of umpire Steve Garratt, “very green”.
Marked and regular movement off the seam has been a feature of a Division Two game in which the quicker bowlers on both sides dominated the bat until last wicket pair Azhar Mahmood and Simon Cook both hit fifties – the first of the match – and put on 92 at the end of Kent’s second innings of 232.
Tony Pigott, the ECB pitch liaison officer and former Sussex and England paceman, attended the second day, and after watching the morning’s play – in which six more Kent second innings wickets fell – decided to call in the panel.
Jack Birkenshaw, the former England spinner, and Chris Wood, the ECB pitches consultant, joined Pigott on the panel and the group met at the close of the second day. By then, Middlesex had reached 120 for 1 on a surface which had become clearly more comfortable and, when rain ended play an hour early, they were only 47 runs away from their fourth Championship victory of the season.
The captains and coaches of both teams, both umpires, plus Vinny Codrington, the chief executive of Middlesex, and John Stephenson, head of cricket at MCC, were interviewed by the panel, along with the Lord’s groundstaff team.
Kent were bowled out for 87 after being asked to bat first by Middlesex, who were then dismissed themselves in their first innings for 153 on a well-grassed pitch. The dramatic first day’s play ended with Kent on 46 for 3 in their second innings.