Blighted pitch has Kiwis in a quandary | cricket | Hindustan Times
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Blighted pitch has Kiwis in a quandary

New Zealand could find themselves being dragged further down ahead of the second Test as a controversy over the pitch at McLean Park in Napier erupted just days before the second match. The grass on the wicket block has been affected by a fungal disease, forcing authorities to abandon the originally preferred surface and set to work on an alternative.

cricket Updated: Mar 22, 2009 22:59 IST
Anand Vasu

New Zealand could find themselves being dragged further down ahead of the second Test as a controversy over the pitch at McLean Park in Napier erupted just days before the second match. The grass on the wicket block has been affected by a fungal disease, forcing authorities to abandon the originally preferred surface and set to work on an alternative.

The grass was reseeded after December’s West Indies Test match but the fungus has caused growth of turf to be extremely uneven. New Zealand would prefer a wicket with a bit of bounce and lateral movement, to counter India’s batting might, but it may be impossible to produce such a surface after a fungal attack.

Authorities, however, were confident that an acceptable surface would be served up for the game. “Aesthetically, it won’t be pleasing on the eye but the groundsman is confident it will play well enough,” New Zealand coach Andy Moles said.

“We need a typical New Zealand wicket where it nips about for a couple of days so it brings our seamers into the game. We’ve seen in the past they don’t like the ball when it goes sideways a little bit — that’s our best way of nullifying their batters.”

However, the one thing that Moles, and the rest of the team does not want is a dry, dusty wicket.

“If the wicket is very dry it can turn a lot, which is something we don’t want to experience down there. We don’t want a raging turner. We want a wicket as close as possible to the one we saw at Eden Park.”

After Harbhajan Singh’s 6 for 63 in the first Test, India will be quietly confident, and the news that they might be playing on a dry wicket can only come as a boost.

India, though, will wait till the last moment to find out what pitch they are playing on. The team left Hamilton for Auckland on Sunday for rest and training, and will only reach Napier on Wednesday, a day before the Test match.

Remember the fusarium?

The year was 1972, it was an Ashes year. Ian Chappell’s Australians were in England and were welcomed at Leeds by a pitch affected by the fusarium fungus.

Left-arm spinner Derek Underwood, considered unplayable on a helpful surface, picked up 10 for 82 as England won the Test and eventually the series.

Not much was made of the surface then but the Aussies have since alleged that the surface was deliberately tampered with to give England an edge. ‘Bleedin’ smart fungus that one.

The groundsman had a verdant ground for all but an area 22 yards by ten! Greg Chappell had said.