From the moment it became public that a fungal disease had caused curator Phil Stoyanoff to shift to a playing surface close to the originally chosen one, there have been whispers of a conspiracy theory. Fans in India will be familiar with the nudge-nudge wink-wink type statements that go around when the home side is down in a series and badly needs to force a result.
In New Zealand, though, captains have a limited say over pitch preparation and earlier in the series Daniel Vettori had already admitted as much. The thought that the home team would serve up a green seamer gathered momentum but it seems like this is hardly the case. On Monday, the Test pitch at McLean Park had plenty of grass on it but by Tuesday, some of it had been removed.
Central Districts chief executive Brian Furlong had ruled out any ulterior motive behind the moving of the match pitch and this was followed by New Zealand Cricket officially responding to the loose talk.
“New Zealand Cricket has confirmed that the wicket at McLean Park is expected to be in top playing condition for the second Test,” a spokesperson said. “The Test playing strip is slightly to one side of the strip originally scheduled to be used for the match, which was affected by minor patchiness after reseeding following the West Indies series.
“The new strip appears hard and flat, with affected areas well outside the playing zone. The strip has been extensively prepared over the past 10 days and is in excellent condition.”
Experts in Napier reckon it will be a flat deck with a bit of bounce, but till Thursday no one will know for sure.