The International Cricket Council (ICC) has rated the Wanderers pitch in Johannesburg as ‘poor’ and allocated three demerit points to South Africa’s premier cricket stadium.
In a statement released on Tuesday, the ICC said that match referee for the third Freedom Series test match between South Africa and India, Andy Pycroft, described the pitch as having “had excessively steep and unpredictable bounce, and excessive seam movement. It deteriorated quickly as the match progressed, which made batting extremely difficult and hazardous, resulting in the medical staff from both the sides having to come onto the field of play multiple times to treat their batsmen.”
The three demerit points incurred by the Bullring mean that if that stadium receives two more demerit points within a rolling five-year period, then it will be suspended from staging any international cricket for 12 months.
Drama ensued during the third test when play was stopped 20 minutes before the official close of play on day three.
This after South Africa’s opening batsman Dean Elgar mistimed a short ball that seemed to bounce a little more off the pitch and was hit in the face. Thankfully he had a helmet on.
The umpires then came together and decided to call off play but resumed with the match the next morning. The Proteas were bowled out on day four and lost the test by 63 runs.
Elgar was the last man standing on 86 not out.
Throughout the test, players from both sides were hit on the body and fingers and admitted that the pitch was difficult and challenging to bat on, with Elgar suggesting that the match should have been abandoned long before he took the ball to the face.
According to the ICC, Cricket South Africa (CSA) will have a chance to appeal the decision.
The 34 000 capacity Wanderers Stadium is scheduled to host two more matches during the India tour, a sold-out one-day international and a T20, as well as the fourth Test match against Australia at the end of March.
It is unlikely that these scheduled matches will be affected.
When South Africa toured India in 2015, the pitch during the third test in Nagpur was also rated “poor” with the ICC giving the Jamtha Stadium an official warning.
The match ended in three days with India trouncing South Africa for a whitewash.
Those observing that game said that there were several occasions of the ball misbehaving off the surface.
CSA said they had noted the ICC’s report and were considering their options.
Meanwhile, AB de Villiers will not participate in the first three ODIs against India due to a finger injury. CSA said that de Villiers – ranked as the world’s number 2 batsman, behind India captain Virat Kohli – sustained the injury to his right index finger during the third test and will require up to two weeks to make a full recovery.
The ICC stipulates that the “objective of a Test pitch shall be to allow all the individual skills of the game to be demonstrated by the players at various stages of the match.
If anything, the balance of the contest between bat and ball in a Test match should slightly favour the bowling team,”
The ICC, through its match referees, also rates all pitches as either: very good, good, average, below average, poor and unfit.
The definition of a ‘poor’ pitch is described as:
A poor pitch is one that does not allow an even contest between bat and ball, either by favouring the batters too much, and not giving the bowlers (seam and spin) from either team sufficient opportunity to take wickets, or by favouring the bowlers too much (seam or spin), and not giving the batters from either team the opportunity to make runs.
If any of the following criteria apply, a pitch may be rated “poor”:
- The pitch offers excessive seam movement at any stage of the match
- The pitch displays excessive unevenness of bounce for any bowler at any stage of the match
- The pitch offers excessive assistance to spin bowlers, especially early in the match
- The pitch displays little or no seam movement or turn at any stage in the match together with no significant bounce or carry, thereby depriving the bowlers of a fair contest between bat and ball. 3 points
- The pitch displays excessive moisture making its playing characteristics unpredictable, or excessive dryness leading to the surface to deteriorate.