India vs England 2014 - Docile Trent Bridge pitch raises uncomfortable questions |

Docile Trent Bridge pitch raises uncomfortable questions

14 Jul 2014, 2012 hrs IST,  ,  
Docile Trent Bridge pitch raises uncomfortable questions
It was going to be a different Test match, but 29 wickets in five days has left many wondering what transpired.
Twenty-nine wickets in five days of a Test match on English soil. An oddity in all sense, and even more so when the venue in question is Trent Bridge. The same Trent Bridge which has for decades encouraged fast bowlers with its assistance for swing and seam; the same Trent Bridge known for lush, green outfields that help keep the Dukes ball in shiny condition; the same Trent Bridge which before the recent first Test between England and India last threw up a draw in 2002. Incidentally, in August 2002 it was India and England who batted out a draw at Trent Bridge.

Since then? Ten victories, with almost each seeing pace and swing dominate over spin. That is, until the stalemate between Alastair Cook's jaded English team and MS Dhoni's India, who turned up in Nottingham having not won an overseas Test in three years.

In those 12 years since the previous draw in 2002, the chief architects were pace bowlers. Leading the way was Anderson, with 49 wickets at the ground in seven Tests, average 17.34 and strike-rate 37.2. The same Anderson who laboured 57 overs for four wickets in this match. Six five-wicket hauls, two of which came in the previous Test between England and Australia at almost exactly the same dates in July 2013. The margins of result since 2002: 70 runs, four wickets, three wickets, 134 runs, seven wickets, and innings and nine runs, 354 runs, 319 runs, nine wickets and 14 runs.

A cursory glance at these last 12 years shows that the matches have been played in the same time frame - mid June to mid July. One Test, against West Indies in 2012, was played in late May and another, versus Australia in late August of 2005, were played at either end of the summer. So there is little to be surmised over whether the time of summer impacted the conditions and outcome of the matches. Swing and seam has dominated at Trent Bridge over these 12 years, that is certain.

Which makes this latest Test all the more bemusing.

Day one at Trent Bridge saw a desperately slow surface, very un-English, and at the end of the first hour the sight of James Anderson and Stuart Broad bowling with a lone slip and catchers at extra cover and short mid-on. It was going to be a different Test match, all right, but 29 wickets in five days has left many wondering what transpired. Both teams posted over 400 in their first innings on a docile track, before India batted out the entire fifth reaching 391 for 9 before the match ended. The pitch showed no sign of deterioration.

The questions came thick and fast. Why would the hosts nullify their home advantage? What instructions were given to the Trent Bridge ground staff? Why the dodo-dead pitch? Alastair Cook said the pitch resembled the one in Nagpur, Nasser Hussain reckoned it was a "a reflection of how perilous some counties' finances must be if they're so desperate to ensure a fifth day that they come up with something like this."

There has been no definitive explanation from the Nottinghamshire front office, only mention from the club's chief executive about the head groundsman being left burdened by a "personal ordeal" and who "has never made an error like this before". Something is amiss.

Conspiracy theories will naturally have risen over the past five days, with the most common that the home board has helped India from folding in conditions where they struggled in 2011 - never mind that it was here that they claimed a famous series-clinching win over England in 2007 - and the financial angle of matches garnering more traction in five days, as well as the county's desire to gather more gate receipts. You can draw up your own conclusions.

The second Test starts at Lord's on Thursday. Lets hope there is something in that track for the pace bowlers. Otherwise we could be headed for a rather dull summer. And more uncomfortable questions.

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