It’s very easy to cry conspiracy when decisions made by a governing body go against the team you support. Despite it being more often than not wide of the mark, in Hampshire’s case it could be claimed that the 8 point deduction for a ‘poor’ (note the use of inverted commas) pitch imparted by the ECB was not made entirely without the past relationship between these two bodies in mind.
Setting Hampshire’s history with the ECB aside though, it is important to look at this penalty in pure cricketing terms. The verdict was that the pitch offered excessive turn for spinners. Indeed, of the 36 wickets that fell in the 3 days of play (the first was washed out), 25 were taken by spinners. Neither side managed an innings scoring rate of 3 an over, and the game was played on the same pitch that drew attention for its spin in a televised 40 over match.
However I can’t help but feel that the point is being missed by the ECB. Let’s consider, batting-wise, the two sides that played in this match. Hampshire sit bottom of Division 1 for a number of reasons, not least because they have been diabolical this season with the bat. Only once have they reached a first innings total in excess of 300, whilst Nottinghamshire’s top 6 share three centuries between them this season. Neither side are exactly India’s galacticos are they?
Likewise, the two stars with the ball, Samit Patel and Danny Briggs, are hardly part time rubbish you see cropping up and taking wickets in 20/20 matches. The former is a consistently excellent allrounder whilst the latter is fast becoming one of the best spinners in the country. If the wicket is showing signs of spin then you’d be asking questions if these two weren’t able to take advantage of it.
I am, it has to be stressed, not trying to exalt the pitch in any way. It was a tired wicket not conducive to free flowing batting but it provided us with one hell of a contest. Two International class batsmen, Neil McKenzie and Adam Voges, played first class knocks in the match. Is that not what people want to see? Or would we rather have half the wickets and twice the runs? I can assure you that had that been the case then as Imran Tahir bowled the final ball of the final day, two results would not have still been possible, as they were here.
Despite a few grumbles about damaging bowlers, no punishments are handed out to grounds on which 4 or 5 day matches barely reach the third innings before a draw is shaken on. Surely these are poor pitches as they do not offer anything for the bowlers? Will a team be docked points for preparing a pitch that offers excessive help to the batsmen? I doubt it.
We must also examine the protocol followed by the ECB in monitoring and reporting pitches. On the first day of play at The Rose Bowl 13 wickets fell. Though that is a fair few it shouldn’t exactly set any alarms ringing. However a pitch inspector was present at the ground for the following two days. Under what circumstances was he called over? I’m not convinced a first innings 65 overs in length (the shortest innings of the match, infact) with six wickets falling to spin should be deemed bad enough to investigate. It could well be that the ECB already had an eye on this game following the televised match mentioned above.
I speculate, but the point remains that there appears to be no structure to the pitch monitoring system used by the ECB, as found out by Warwickshire and Worcestershire earlier in the season. It is also slightly baffling that there has been no investigation into the pitch used in the Roses match, where 16 wickets fell on day 2 and 13 fell on day 3. It would be interesting to find out if the umpires at the Hampshire-Nottinghamshire match would have reported the Rose Bowl wicket if the pitch inspection committee had not already been there for two thirds of the match.
So at the end of all this, Nottinghamshire go home with a few points and Hampshire with even less. A thrilling Championship match (somewhat of a rarity nowadays) with any number of twists that goes down to the very last ball is deemed ‘poor’ and punishable.
Thanks, ECB. Good job.
Article by Josh Taylor