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In the game of cricket, the cricket pitch consists of the central strip of the cricket field between the wickets - 1 chain or 22 yards (20.12 m) long and 10 feet (3.05 m) wide. The surface is very flat and normally covered with extremely short grass though this grass is soon removed by wear at the ends of the pitch.
In amateur matches, artificial pitches are commonly used. These can be a slab of concrete, overlaid with a coir mat, artificial turf, some times dirt is put over the coir mat to provide an authentic feeling pitch. Artificial pitches are rare in professional cricket—-being used only when exhibition matches are played in regions where cricket is not a common sport.
The pitch has very specific markings delineating the creases, as specified by the Laws of Cricket.
The word wicket often occurs in reference to the pitch. Although technically incorrect according the Laws of Cricket (Law 7 covers the pitch and Law 8 the wickets, distinguishing between them), cricket players, followers, and commentators persist in the usage, with context eliminating any possible ambiguity. Track is yet another synonym for pitch.
The rectangular central area of the cricket field - the space used for pitches - is known as the square.
Protected areaThe protected area or danger area is the central portion of the pitch—a rectangle running down the middle of the pitch, two feet wide, and beginning five feet from each popping crease. Under the Laws of Cricket, a bowler must avoid running on this area during his follow-through after delivering the ball.
If a bowler runs on the protected area, an umpire will issue a warning to the bowler and to his team captain. The umpire issues a second and final warning if the bowler transgresses again. On the third offence, the umpire will eject the bowler from the attack and the bowler may not bowl again for the remainder of the innings.
The protected area is protected in this way because the ball normally bounces on the pitch within this region, and if it is scuffed or damaged by the bowler's footmarks it can give an unfair advantage to the bowling side. The rule does not prevent the bowler or any other fielder from running on the protected area in an effort to field the ball; it applies only to the uninterrupted follow-through.
State of the pitch
A natural pitch with grass longer or more moist than usual is described as a green pitch. This favours the bowler over the batsman as the ball can be made to behave erratically on longer or wet grass. Most club and social cricket is played on pitches that professional cricketers would call green.
A sticky wicket - a pitch that has become wet - causes the ball to behave erratically, particularly for the slower or spin bowlers. However, modern pitches are generally protected from rain and dew before and during games so a sticky pitch is rarely seen in first-class cricket. The phrase, however, has retained currency and extended beyond cricket to mean any difficult situation.
As a match progresses, the pitch dries out. The Laws of Cricket bar watering the pitch during a match. As it dries out, initially batting becomes easier as any moisture disappears. Over the course of a four or five day match, however, the pitch begins to crack, then crumble and become dusty. This kind of pitch is colloquially known as a 'dust bowl' or 'minefield'. This again favors bowlers, particularly spin bowlers who can obtain large amounts of traction on the surface and make the ball spin a long way.
This change in the relative difficulties of batting and bowling as the state of the pitch changes during a match is one of the primary strategic considerations that the captain of the team that wins the coin toss will take into account when deciding which team will bat first and can accordingly finalize his decisions.
Covering the pitchThe pitch is said to be covered when the groundsmen have placed covers on it to protect it against rain or dew. The use or non-use of covers significantly affects the way the ball comes off the pitch, making the matter potentially controversial. Law 11 of the Laws of Cricket provides that during the match the pitch shall not be completely covered unless provided otherwise by regulations or by agreement before the toss. When possible, the bowlers' run ups are covered in inclement weather to keep them dry. If the pitch is covered overnight, the covers are removed in the morning at the earliest possible moment on each day that play is expected to take place. If covers are used during the day as protection from inclement weather or if inclement weather delays the removal of overnight covers, they are removed as soon as conditions allow. Excess water can be removed from a pitch or the outfield using a machine called a water hog.
Preparation and maintenance of the playing area
Law 10 of the Laws of Cricket sets out rules covering the preparation and maintenance of the playing area.
Rolling the pitchDuring the match the captain of the batting side may request the rolling of the pitch for a period of not more than 7 minutes, before the start of each innings (other than the first innings of the match, and before the start of each subsequent day's play). In addition, if, after the toss and before the first innings of the match, the start is delayed, the captain of the batting side may request to have the pitch rolled for not more than 7 minutes, unless the umpires together agree that the delay has had no significant effect on the state of the pitch. Once the game has begun, rolling may not take place other than under these circumstances.
If there is more than one roller available the captain of the batting side shall have the choice. There are detailed rules to make sure that rolling, where possible, is conducted so as not to delay the game, but, if necessary, the game is delayed to allow the batting captain to have up to 7 minutes rolling if he so wishes.
SweepingBefore a pitch is rolled it is first swept to avoid any possible damage caused by rolling in debris. The pitch is also cleared of any debris at all intervals for meals, between innings and at the beginning of each day. The only exception to this is that the umpires do not allow sweeping to take place where they consider it may be detrimental to the surface of the pitch.
MowingGroundsmen mow the pitch on each day of a match on which play is expected to take place. Once a game has begun, mowings take place under the supervision of the umpires.
 Footholes and footholdsThe umpires are required to make sure that bowlers' and batsmen's footholes are cleaned out and dried whenever necessary to facilitate play. In matches of more than one day's duration, if necessary, the footholes made by the bowler in his delivery stride may be returfed or covered with quick-setting fillings to make them safe and secure. Players may also secure their footholds using sawdust provided that the pitch is not damaged or they do not do so in a way that is unfair to the other team.
Practicing on the fieldThe rules do not allow players to practise bowling or batting on the pitch, or on the area parallel and immediately adjacent to the pitch, at any time on any day of the match. Practice on a day of a match on any other part of the cricket square may take place only before the start of play or after the close of play on that day and must cease 30 minutes before the scheduled start of play or if detrimental to the surface of the square.
Typically players do practise on the field of play, but not on the cricket square, during the game. Also bowlers sometimes practise run ups during the game. However, no practice or trial run-up is permitted on the field of play during play if it could result in a waste of time. The rules concerning practice on the field are covered principally by Law 17 of the Laws of Cricket.
Typical pitchesPitches in different parts of the world have different characteristics. The nature of the pitch plays a very important role in the actual game: it may have a significant influence on team selection and other aspects. A spin bowler may be preferred in the Indian subcontinent where the dry pitches assist spinners (especially towards the end of a five-day test match) whereas an all pace attack may be used in places like Australia where the pitches are bouncy.
Pitches in AustraliaPitches in Australia have traditionally been known to be good for fast bowlers because of the amount of bounce that can be generated on these surfaces. In particular, the pitch at the WACA Ground in Perth is regarded as being possibly the quickest pitch in the world. The Gabba in Brisbane is also known to assist fast bowlers with its bounce. However, these kinds of bouncy pitches also open up more areas for run-scoring, as they promote the playing of a lot of pull, hook and cut shots. Batsmen who play these shots well have a lot of success on these pitches.
Other stadiums like Adelaide Oval and Sydney Cricket Ground have been known to assist spinners more as these pitches have more dust cover. This makes the stadiums an attractive ground for batsmen, allowing teams on an average have scores of 300 or above in their first innings. The Melbourne Cricket Ground can assist seam bowlers initially, but it has a tennis-ball bounce which can negate the potency of bowlers once a match progresses.
Swing bowling can be a weapon in Australia, but unlike England, it depends upon the overhead conditions, similar to the Indian subcontinent.
Batting in Australia is easier on most pitches. Most back-foot players tend to do well. The only difficulties lie in the unusual bounce of WACA and MCG.
Pitches in England and WalesGreen, swing promoting and humid conditions sums up the construction of English pitches. Early in the season, most batsmen have to be on their guard as English pitches prove to be most fickle, like the country's weather. Later in the summer, the pitches tend to get harder and lose their green. This makes the task easier for batsmen and only genuine fast bowlers like those bowling in range of (130–150 km/h) and spinners can contain. Spinners prove less effective in the first half of the season and tend to play their part only in the second half. The humid conditions and little dust makes the grounds ideal place to practice reverse swing with a 50-over old ball. Andrew Flintoff used this weapon to particular effect during England's 2005 and 2009 Ashes victories. Of all grounds, The Oval is the most dangerous as the ball reverse swings most there. Another reason for this is traditionally it hosts the last international test match of a touring side in a summer. Few formidable wicket-taker spinner had been known to come from the English side for the past many years.
England has a reputation for producing some decent swing bowlers. As of 2010 some of the current crop include James Anderson and Ryan Sidebottom.
England is the hub for considerable research in the preparation of cricket pitches, and some outstanding research has recently been conducted by Cranfield University. The same has laid down fresh guidelines for preparation of pitches and is likely to improve the efficiency of a number of groundstaff.
Pitches in IndiaPitches in India have historically supported spin bowling rather than seam or swing. Such pitches had virtually no grass, afforded little assistance for pace, bounce, or lateral air movement, but created very good turn. In decades past, legendary spin bowlers—most notably the Indian spin quartet of the 1960s and 1970s, consisting of left-armer Bedi, offspinners Prasanna and Venkataraghavan, and legspinner Chandrasekhar—routinely toyed with visiting teams to plot dramatic victories for India in home test matches, particularly on turning pitches in hot, humid conditions at Eden Gardens in Kolkata (then known as Calcutta) and Chepauk in Chennai (then known as Madras). They outwitted opposing batsmen not only through line, length, and trajectory variations but also by physically and psychologically exploiting rough spots resulting from wear and tear on the playing top and cracks from increasing surface dryness as a game progressed.The Indian batsmen being superb players of spin bowling have generally relished home conditions.Also few opposition teams have fielded quality spinners with Australia having Shane Warne in the team an obvious exception.Not surprisingly building a first inning lead is crucial in matches played in India.While the Brabourne and Wankhede stadiums in Mumbai and Ferozshah Kotla in Delhi never offered nearly as much turn to spinners, winning a series in India was nevertheless quite difficult, and considered an ultimate challenge for visiting teams, as it is to this day.
Indian pitches and attitudes have changed considerably in the past few years. The induction of several newer venues (such as the one at Mohali), the emergence of "genuine" Indian fast bowlers, plus the development of domestic league cricket with international participants in the form of IPL and ICL, have resulted in a greater variety of pitches. Some contemporary pitches provide good support for pace, bounce, and swing, giving visiting teams from countries such as South Africa and Australia the feeling of being at home. Surfaces are often tailor made to be flat tops or excessively batsmen-friendly, for the sake of maximizing entertainment value, at the expense of all types of bowlers.
Pitches in South AfricaPitches resemble those in Australia with added swing(lateral) movement and comparatively lesser bounce. However, genuine fast bowlers who can hit the deck hard and hope for some seam as well do the most damage, the like of which are Shaun Pollock, Allan Donald, Makhaya Ntini, Dale Steyn, Morné Morkel, André Nel and Jacques Kallis. Spinners gain no assistance as in New Zealand and have to toil hard. This is perhaps a reason why South Africa has failed to produce a quality wicket-taker spinner.
Pitches in New ZealandThe pitches here, like the ones at Eden Park, Auckland and Basin Reserve, Wellington are more green than their counterparts in England. This makes the stadiums the most picturesque ones in the world. The ball swings a lot due to the proximity of most stadiums to the sea and seam and bounce help the fast bowlers. The pitches resemble the South African ones, with added wind. Batting can be very trying and batsman often take time to adjust to the conditions. As they are often in open stadiums bowlers can frequently be assisted by winds that increase the speed the batsmen faces the ball at one end. At the other end, the wind acts as a wall and decreases the pace on the ball and as result adjusting to this is often the most trying part for a visiting teams.
As of 2010 prominent New Zealand seam bowlers of the current era include Shane Bond, Mark Gillespie, Chris Martin, Tim Southee, Kyle Mills, Michael Mason and James Franklin. The only currently recognised quality spinner is left-armer Daniel Vettori (currently ranked 2nd and 12th in the ICC Reliance Mobile Test All-rounder and Bowler ranking respectively).
Pitches in the West IndiesThe West Indies tends to produce balanced pitches. Neither is the bounce too disconcerting nor is the movement extravagant.It also does not assist spin like the sub continent pitches and hence for quality batsman they could be batting paradises. However, bowlers who are willing to bend their backs find some assistance from these pitches. Pitches here have earned a reputation of helping the quicks somewhat mainly because of the era gone by when West Indies used to have some of the fastest bowlers in cricket and hence the pitches appeared to be faster than they are. Tall bowlers like Joel Garner, Michael Holding, Andy Roberts, Colin Croft, Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh produced bounce and speed even on the most docile pitches that wreaked havoc to any side and they used to run through the line-up. However, some of the best batsmen have arisen from the Caribbean too, like Viv Richards, Clive Lloyd, Rohan Kanhai, and Brian Lara. Gary Sobers is generally considered the greatest all-rounder of all time. Spinners also have something in the pitches as they offer a little dust and cracks from fourth day onwards.
Pitches in PakistanPitches in Pakistan have historically supported spin bowling rather than seam or swing. However, the conditions in most grounds of Pakistan, like Rawalpindi, Lahore and Peshwar have also seen support for the reverse-swing capabilities of the local bowlers in past times like Imran Khan, Sarfraz Nawaz and Wasim Akram. The dry and windy conditions usually lend good support to the faster bowlers as well. Such pitches had virtually no grass, afforded little assistance for pace, bounce, or lateral air movement, but created very good turn. In decades past, legendary offspinners such as Saqlain Mushtaq credited for the doosra, and legspinners such as Abdul Qadir and Mushtaq Ahmed, routinely toyed with visiting teams to plot dramatic victories for Pakistan in home test matches, particularly on turning pitches in hot, humid conditions at Arbab Niaz Stadium and Gaddafi Stadium. For Pakistan, a fast bowler needs to have speed around 85 mph + so rarely medium bowlers in Pakistan appear and the fastest bowled bowl clocking 100.2 mph is for Shoaib Akhtar.
Pitches in Pakistan are flat and considered batting paradises for batsmen in winter; they suit spinners in summer, Pakistan is a very dangerous Twenty20 side. Therefore fast bowlers generally have to make something happen on their own. Reverse Swing is credited to Sarfraz Nawaz, who later forwarded the art. Notable Pakistani fast bowlers include Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis.
Pitches in BangladeshThe Bangladeshi wickets receive a lot of rain fall in little time which reflects the soggy nature. The conditions vary from grounds like Sher-e-Bangla Cricket Stadium and Chittagong Divisional Stadium.
Notable spinners include Shakib Al Hasan and Abdur Razzak and seamers like Mashrafe Mortaza.
Pitches in Sri LankaGenerally dusty and shorn off grass, the rain here also makes it a "sticky wicket". Wickets are flat and doesn't offer much bounce unlike the pitch at Asgiriya Stadium, Kandy in Sri Lanka offers generous bounce and favors fast bowling. Bowlers get help under the lights. Spin is the key in these conditions. Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis are dangerous Sri Lankan bowlers with seamer Lasith Malinga the slinger.
Spinners have fine records in the pitches in Sri Lanka. The heat requires extreme level of fitness & the sweaty clothing doesn't quite shine the ball. Reverse swing, off-spin, leg-spin all is effective for a good player. Spin plays great role in Test and ODI cricket.
Pitches in ZimbabwePitches in Zimbabwe closely resemble those in South Africa, the only difference being in the nature of the bounce. The pitches in South Africa provide fast bounce while the pitches in Zimbabwe tend to have a spongy, tennis ball type of bounce, which makes hitting on the up a risky proposition. Most pitches have slower bounce, hence batting is more favorable in Zimbabwe.
Conditions at the Queens Sports Club, Bulawayo tend to aid batsmen, with spin coming into the game in a big way in the latter stages. The pitch has some grass, though not green enough to leave batsmen anxious. With the temperature touching 28 degrees, the strip is expected to dry out quickly and flatten into a batting beauty. The seamers' best chance will be with the new ball, and both teams feel keen to make first use of the pitch.