Quick single: pitch predictions

The match preview on cricinfo for the Bangladesh v Pakistan 1st Test at Khulne, advised:

Spin has been king at the Sheikh Abu Nasir Stadium, unless someone with high pace creates enough chances. Batting will get progressively harder.

Over the last two days of the game 646 runs were scored for the loss of eleven wickets. Spin didn’t reign. 1,092 runs were conceded in the game by slow bowlers, who took 19 wickets.

On the day before the 3rd West Indies v England Test in Barbados, cricinfo forecast (comparing to the wickets prepared for the first and second Tests in the series):

the wicket in Bridgetown is anticipated to provide a bit more pace and bounce, which is good news for everybody. It is also a little drier so spin could play more of a part than the previous Tests of this series. In short, we might have a more sporting wicket.

At the end of the second day, the website’s reporter made the following assessment: “[England’s] advantage extended to 107 on a surface where every run was at a premium.”

A pitch anticipated to be ‘sporting’ had, within two days, hosted the most wickets (18) to fall in a single day’s Test cricket in the West Indies.

A couple of points about these two pitch predictions. Firstly, cricinfo deserves no more criticism for errant forecasts than any other source (and in fact, I could have found even grosser errors than these). Its match previews, although short, do tend to offer a more nuanced description of the conditions than the broadcasters, who serve up familiar formulations: “slow pitch”, “two-paced”, “breaking up”. Teams have been known, relatively frequently, to select bowling attacks unsuited to exploit the nature of the pitch.

Secondly, the predictions could be spot on, but the game forecast hasn’t occurred because of the players. At Khulna, the batsmen over-achieved versus the bowlers; at Bridgetown the reverse.

But I doubt it – so strong is our direct experience of the pitch conditions affecting the way a match is played.

There are inherent difficulties in predicting how a pitch will play. It’s an organic substance, affected by the climate as the match progresses. Analysis is literally superficial, focusing on colour, hardness, surface moisture and grass coverage. It may be that the pitch’s true nature lies a little bit deeper.

I just wonder whether we could do better at this game of reading the playing strip runes? And whether it would be a better game to play, or to view, if the players and the spectators were less surprised, less often by how the pitch behaved?


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About chrisps

TouchlineDad to three sporty kids; cricket blogger and coach; and the alpha male in our pride.

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