Bowler-friendly pitches bringing down Aus cricket

In South Australia

South Australian cricket coach Darren Berry has blasted pitch preparation for Sheffield Shield matches.

The Redbacks finally scored a win in Hobart, but Berry condemned too many states as being focused on short-term success to the detriment of Australian cricket in the longer term.

“Wickets all around the country are very, very bowler-friendly,” he said.

“It’s not just Hobart. Brisbane is the same, Perth is the same and even Melbourne last year was very bowler-friendly.”

The statistics back up Berry’s claims.

There have been eight outright victories in the 11 completed Sheffield Shield games this season. Six of the eight wins were achieved in less than three days.

“First-class cricket should be won and lost in the third session on day four and regularly last year – have a look at the numbers – games were finished in two-and-a-half to three days and then this year games are finished in three days,” said the second-year SA coach.

“I don’t think that’s good for Australian cricket. I feel the medium-fast bowlers are getting figures that are perhaps not reflective of their true ability and I think it’s really difficult for young batsmen – or for any batsmen – or for spin bowlers to play in those conditions to prepare them for Test cricket.”

Six bowlers have taken five or more wickets in an innings so far in the Sheffield Shield season, none of them spinners.

Sparing spin

Berry notes slow bowlers have been sparingly used because of the nature of the pitches, with Test off-spinner Nathan Lyon only called on to bowl four overs as the Redbacks ended a 19-match winless streak by beating Tasmania.

“You look at this round of Shield matches where all games were finished in three days,” Berry added. “That’s not good for Test cricket, that’s not good for first-class cricket.”

The former Victorian wicketkeeper is also concerned about the effect on Australia’s Test batting line-up ahead of the series against South Africa which starts on Friday at the Gabba.

“Ricky Ponting and Ed Cowan [are] preparing for a Test match played on a wicket that will be nothing like they’re going to get up in Brisbane,” he said.

“It’s Australian cricket and I do think they need to look into the state of first-class wickets across the country, apart from the best one out here on the Adelaide Oval.

“It’s on the agenda for discussion as to how the state coaches feel and I know how they feel about it. I think it’s something that will be looked into and it’s not just a flippant, throwaway comment – it’s based on facts over the last few years where cricket is finishing regularly on day three in four-day matches. That can’t be good for preparing the players for the next level.”

Never on the back foot in taking up an issue, Berry pointed squarely at those he considered responsible for chasing wins on bowler-friendly surfaces.

“It’s no coincidence that last year that Queensland and Tasmania played off in the Shield final,” Berry observed.

“Have a look at how many games on their pitches finished in an outright – all of them. It’s a fact that outright results are always happening in Brisbane, Hobart and Perth.

“Sure they’ve got to back themselves to win in those conditions and sometimes the toss can affect the outright result, but I feel that states are perhaps looking for short-term gain rather than long-term gain.”

Berry’s Redbacks resume their Shield campaign in Perth next Monday against Western Australia.

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