Pitch panel inconsistencies need to be reviewed

Although Kent fully accepted the ECB pitch panel’s eight-point penalty for a Canterbury surface marked “poor” because of “excessive unevenness” during their six-wicket County Championship win in little more than two days against Essex, the incident again highlighted the inconsistencies of the system.

Kent would be entitled to wonder, for instance, why a Lord’s pitch on which 23 wickets fell on the first day of their Championship match against Middlesex on June 19 escaped without penalty – or why their eight-point punishment was exactly the same as the one given to Warwickshire in mid-May for an Edgbaston pitch that Steve Rhodes, the Worcestershire director of cricket, described as “the worst wicket I have ever seen in professional cricket in England”.

Most batsmen in the match had suffered nasty blows to gloves or body – which was never the case at Canterbury – and two Worcestershire batsmen had retired hurt in their first innings. Rhodes, indeed, decided to concede defeat by 218 runs when, with Worcestershire at 109 for seven in their second innings, he saw Ben Scott struck again on the hand by a brutish lifter from Warwickshire fast bowler Boyd Rankin.

“It was a farcical end to what has been a farcical game, said Rhodes afterwards. “This pitch was marked as poor but in my view it was unfit for first-class cricket.” What Rhodes was saying, and what many observers at Edgbaston felt, was that the surface should have been marked “unfit”, a marking that would have cost Warwickshire 24 points.

As it was, Warwickshire even had the gall to appeal against the decision – an appeal, predictably, they lost – but had the penalty been 24 points then it would have impacted far more on this season’s Championship title race. In Middlesex’s case, too, a penalty would have had ramifications in terms of the second division promotion race – but, in county cricket circles, there is a strong feeling that there is one rule for the Test match ground counties but another for the smaller clubs.

The only other pitch that has received a penalty so far this summer is the Rose Bowl, where a surface of supposedly excessive turn in fact produced one of the most thrilling matches of the season, and a contest which went well into the final day.

In Kent’s case, they were not too bothered as they are near the bottom of the second division table and have nothing tangible left to play for – and they certainly would not countenance spending £5,000 on any appeal in their current financial position.

It might be a purely cynical view, but did the pitch panel choose to make an example of Kent simply because it was an easy opportunity to throw some weight about? By all accounts, there have been a good number of pitches around the circuit this season which could also have fallen foul of the pitch liaison officers, let alone the examples mentioned above. Certainly, and at the very least, the present inconsistency in application of the penalties available needs to be reviewed.

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5 Responses to Pitch panel inconsistencies need to be reviewed

  1. Robski says:

    Terrific stuff – the stench of double-standards is hard to miss.

  2. paul carew says:

    Counties producing ‘unfit’ pitches should be punished in other ways. Having points deducted punishes the players who have no say in pitch preparation.Warwickshire are always being criticised about their pitches when other counties come up with worse surfaces. The reason why Warwickshire had the ‘gall’ to appeal was because the umpires didn’t think the pitch was worth reporting but some big mouth with a ‘press’ pass thought it should be and decided to phone the ECB pitch inspectors.

  3. Rohan says:

    Yet again you have shown bias against Warwickshire in this artcile. Just beause Steve Rhodes thinks it’s the worst pitch he’s ever seen doesn’t make it true. If you were unbiased, you would take the fact that an individual hundred was scored as evidence that the pitch was fine, but your partisan nature prevents you from doing so. And, quite frankly, Warwickshire’s appeal should have been accepted – the pitch was far better than ones produced by Worcesteshire at new Road.

  4. David says:

    I agree with Rohan and Paul, above.

    Mr Baldwin your article is based on hearsay, not facts.
    “what many observers at Edgbaston felt” is spurious and proves nothing. An equal number probably felt the opposite way.

    I would suggest Steve Rhodes comment’s were from an angry man in the heat of the moment who happened to be under extreme personal pressure because at that stage of the season his team were loosing every game they played.

    However, if he was right in his judgement, logic would suggest the match just finished between Worcestershire and Lancashire should have produced an 8 point penalty for Worcestershire. The game was completed in 5 sessions and comprised137 overs. Worcestershire 237 and 5-0, Lancashire 161 and 80. Only 1 individual score above 50 in the game.

    The game mentioned in the article above lasted 4 days and comprised 263 overs. Warwickshire 382 and 173, Worcestershire 228 and 109. A century and four half-centuries were scored by individual batsmen in the match.

    So, I agree with you that inconsistencies need to be looked at…as does personal bias as to where they are found.

  5. Will says:

    All those at the Middlesex / Kent game have agreed that a combination of very bad batting (perhaps due to the match coming right in the middle of the T20 season) and some very good bowling led to the fall of all of the wickets – not the pitch. The ball was swinging big – as the Tiflex ball does – and wickets fell due to batsmen flashing outside off-stump. The fact that Middlesex chased in the final innings very comfortably shows that there weren’t many demons in the pitch, and all concerned agreed that the pitch wasn’t to blame – hence the lack of a penalty.

    You spoke about an apparent bias towards the “test” counties from the ECB – perhaps a bias against them from this blog?