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Cricket: Players squander a surface to savour

The English are a funny lot. After poor pitches for the first two Tests, at Edgbaston and Lord's, England and India have predictably found much the best surface at Trent Bridge for the Third and final Test.

As a result, runs have been scored in bulk by both sides and a draw soon became inevitable.

So, we now hear that this is too good a pitch for Test cricket in much the same way as, after 10 days of chilly rain, the first two days of sunshine are greeted with loud protests about the unbearable heat.

Yet those who complain about the boring cricket this pitch has produced are showing how customs have changed since the 1940s, '50s and '60s when it was a batsman's game. Crowds came expecting to see huge scores being made.

In those days, however, the spectators had one important advantage over a modern audience: the game moved more quickly because of the significantly faster over-rate. A full day's play produced many more than today's 90 overs, and with more balls to face the scoring rate was obviously higher, the game progressed faster and dull draws, which still happened, were less inevitable. Also, umpires were more prepared to give batsmen out.

Nowadays, crowds have been conditioned by the hustle and bustle of limited- overs cricket. This has effectively outlawed the protracted battle between good batsmen and clever bowlers - often spinners - where maiden overs were frequent and fascinating. Test cricket has always been an examination; one-day cricket an exhibition.

Those who have condemned this pitch forget, too, that this match would have moved forward much faster had the fielding been adequate. India's slips were a disaster. If all the chances given had been accepted, we might well have been looking forward now to the prospect of an exciting last day.

I believe that Frank Dalling, who has taken over the Trent Bridge pitch, should be congratulated. There was more life in it than the scores suggest; the seam bowlers, especially Javagal Srinath, were able to find bounce and movement, and one lost count of the number of times batsmen were beaten outside the off stump. The pitch did not let down the players as much as the players let down a pitch which provided a truer test of cricketing skills.