Wanderers pitch rated poor, but escapes immediate ban

Dubai, Jan 30  The International Cricket Council (ICC) on Tuesday rated the underfire Wanderers pitch in Johannesburg as "poor", days after India won the third Test against South Africa. As such, according to the ICC pitch and outfield monitoring process, the Wanderers pitch has received three demerit points after ICC match referee Andy Pycroft submitted his report. The demerit points will remain active for a rolling five-year period and if during this five-year period the Wanderers Stadium reaches the threshold of five demerit points, then it will be suspended from staging any international cricket for 12 months. Pycroft, whose report has been forwarded to Cricket South Africa, said: "The pitch prepared for the final Test was a poor one. It had excessively steep and unpredictable bounce, and excessive seam movement." "It deteriorated quickly as the match progressed, which made batting extremely difficult and hazardous, resulting in the medical staff from both the sides having to come onto the field of play multiple times to treat their batsmen. "As the on-field umpires are also responsible for the players' safety, they expressed concerns about the behaviour of the pitch, and debated after day three if it was appropriate to continue the match. "In the end, the umpires made the decision to continue and the Test reached its natural conclusion on day four. However, there was still excessive variable bounce and seam movement when the Test match ended," Pycroft's report read according to an ICC statement. India came back from behind to win the Test by 63 runs that saw 40 wickets fall for 805 runs in almost 296 overs.  As per the ICC regulations, a "poor" pitch is one that does not allow an even contest between bat and ball, either by favouring the batsmen too much, and not giving the bowlers (seam and spin) from either team sufficient opportunity to take wickets, or by favouring the bowlers too much (seam or spin), and not giving the batsmen from either team the opportunity to make runs. Incidentally, this is the second consecutive series between India and South Africa in which a pitch has been rated as 'poor' by the ICC. In 2015, the pitch for the third Test at the VCA Stadium in Nagpur was deemed 'poor' after the match finished inside three days on a raging turner.  In this season there have been two venues which have received sanctions by the ICC. The venue of the fourth Ashes Test, the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), was also rated "poor" for being too flat.  The pitch for the second Test between India and South Africa at Centurion too provided for inconsistent bounce, but escaped sanction as it was rated as "average" by the ICC. (IANS)