The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Media flays farce on low-grade pitches
- Condition of wicket took gloss off victory: Fleming

Auckland: Even as the New Zealand team celebrated its first-ever 2-0 Test series win against India, the ‘substandard’ pitches came under some stinging criticism from the local media which called the matches a “low-grade farce” and ‘a poor advertisement for Test cricket’.

The formidable Indian batting line-up could manage just 507 runs from four innings in this series but the New Zealand Herald suggested that it reflected more on ‘New Zealand’s desire to play on wickets that would not so much advantage themselves but disadvantage the opposition’.

“Never mind that the Sachin Tendulkars and Rahul Dravids of this world have previously made cannon-fodder of bowlers such as Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie. They apparently have no clue about how to handle Daryl Tuffey and Jacob Oram, or for that matter, Nathan Astle’s slow mediums,” cricket writer Richard Boock wrote in the paper.

“It was not so much a Test match as a low-grade farce. It was apparent from the day India arrived that all stops were being pulled to ensure their batsmen played on the most difficult surfaces possible,” the paper added.

“The lasting impression from this Test series will be the substandard pitches that India were forced to bat on and the subsequent drop-off in the quality of cricket. It was almost more of a comedy than Test cricket, a slapstick type of performance that set all sorts of records for all the wrong reasons.”

Meanwhile, The Daily News said an already bad pitch was made worse by rains.

“In terms of quality, it was poor advertisement for cricket. Pitch conditions were stacked in the seam bowler’s favour after pre-Test rain juiced it up,” it wrote.

The second Test finished under two days of playing time, the third shortest match in New Zealand after 1945-46 loss to Australia in Wellington and 1983-84 win over England in Christchurch.

It was the first time in the history of Test cricket that a team scoring less than 100 runs had managed a first innings lead and the first time since 1980-81 that a Test had finished without anyone scoring a 50.

“While the result helped maintain the home side’s world number three ranking in Test cricket and gave it four wins from eight Tests in 2002, the juicy, sometimes unplayable, surface irked both sides,” said the Otago Daily Times, published from Dunedin.

Even New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming, who has admitted to his preference for bouncy tracks, confessed that the pitch condition took some gloss off his team’s victory.

“You enjoy when you win but you don’t enjoy the feelings throughout. There were too many good batsmen here to say that the wicket wasn’t at fault,” he said.

However, Hamilton groundsman Doug Strachan kept on defending his wicket.

Referring to Indians’ displeasure over the pitch being watered just days before the Test, Strachan said it was something the niake clay-based wicket required.

“To get it bounce really well, the wicket has to get wet,” he said. “If we go in dry, it’s going to be like it has been in the past — a bowlers’ nightmare.”

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