Thatscricket - Specials - WC 2003 - Ground staff hits back at criticism, pitch reviewed

Published: Saturday, January 11, 2003, 17:30 [IST]
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Port Elizabeth: Groundsmen at St George's Park hit back on Monday at growing criticism over their pitches ahead of Tuesday's World Cup semi-final clash between Australia and Sri Lanka.

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Defending champion Australia, which struggled in its last two matches here on slow, low surfaces against England and New Zealand, has made no secret of its anger over the wickets.However, staff here has been quick to point out that the pitch also yielded 462 runs when the West Indies and New Zealand met in a first round match.In an attempt to reassure the Aussies, the World Cup's head of grounds Hilbert Smith visited the venue as a review was launched.

"His feeling is that it's not the preparation, it's in the actual surface, which is pretty old," said stadium manager Andrew McLean.England's matches here, against Namibia and Australia, and the Australia-New Zealand fixture, were all played on old pitches. "We call the pitch soil 'bully' and it traditionally comes from a town about two hours from here," McLean told the BBC."But our new pitches are laid with bully from Natal, and it is exactly the same as what's used in Durban. So far in this World Cup the first two pitches I was very happy with.

The third one was a bit slow, we acknowledged that."The last one was slightly too moist. Had it been harder it would have been fine. It's like baking a cake, a combination of science and art, except a cake is baked in an oven, which is a controlled environment. Here we often have gale force winds for two days before a match.

"Head groundsman Adrian Carter said, "We embarked on a relaying programme in 1999, so we are aware that some of the pitches are old and need to be re-done."Down here we will never get a pitch as quick as and as bouncy as Centurion but it does not mean we can't still provide a decent pitch."McLean even hinted at frustration amongst venue staff at the carping over the standard of the wicket."Do the administrators want us to produce a pitch which is the same all round the world?" he said. "One-day cricket has become too stereotypical - runs at the beginning, slow in the middle, runs at the death. That pattern needs to be changed."Copyright AFP 2001

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