Test pitch gets vote of confidence

CRICKET Australia has moved to allay concerns that the Test pitch in Hobart will be another minefield for batsmen, knowing it can’t afford a hazardous track to be responsible for a shortened match in Australia’s series opener against Sri Lanka.

The state of the wicket at Bellerive Oval is clearly still a touchy subject after the ”green monster” that hosted Australia and New Zealand in December last year, and a series of first-class matches this season that have favoured seamers heavily.

Cricket Tasmania on Sunday blocked a Fairfax Media request to speak to the ground’s curator, Marcus Pamplin, who prepared last year’s deck dubbed the ”Incredible Hulk” and has overseen the resurfacing of the wicket block at Bellerive.

But Cricket Australia’s senior manager of operations, Sean Cary, is confident the venue for the first of three Tests between Australia and Sri Lanka will provide a more even balance between bat and ball.

”Tassie curator Marcus Pamplin has learnt a lot from preparing his wickets this year on a completely new block,” Cary said. ”The whole wicket block was relaid in August this year. He’s had to manage new soil, clay and rye grass that takes months to settle while preparing wickets for first-class cricket.

”Cricket Australia has taken a back seat monitoring process over the last few weeks and is very confident of Marcus Pamplin’s skills and expertise. He takes great pride in his work and has been working extensively on the Test wicket to ensure it provides an even contest for both teams.”

Amid criticism of state wickets led by South Australia coach Darren Berry, Cricket Australia is monitoring the production of pitches around the country and the topic was on the agenda at last month’s conference of state chief executives.

In the most recent Sheffield Shield match in Hobart, Western Australia was bundled out for 67 in its first innings, with the Tigers claiming victory by an innings and 118 runs.

But Cary said that wicket was a vast improvement on previous versions and would be replicated in the Test pitch to be used from Friday.

”Over the course of the last couple of months, Marcus has been meticulous in the surface preparation to ensure it is even and void of undulations,” he said. ”The result was a very flat surface for his last shield wicket, Tasmania v WA.

”Marcus has employed a similar preparation for the Test wicket and is very confident he’ll have an even surface that should provide a great battle between bat and ball.”

If that rings true it will be music to the ears of Sri Lanka in particular, given its chances against Australia appear to hinge largely on its experienced batting line-up.

Captain Mahela Jayawardene and former leaders Kumar Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan have scored more than 25,000 Test runs between them.

”The new block has provided bowlers with more bounce and carry than the old Bellerive pitch, and this is due to the rye grass and new clay mix,” Cary said.

”However, the new wicket has also shown that when batsmen apply themselves early, runs can be scored.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.


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