Angus Fraser: Insipid batting makes this pitch look deadly – it's not

Inside cricket

Andrew Flintoff's imminent retirement from Test cricket has highlighted the physical fallibility of a fast bowler, but the manner in which England and Australia have batted on this Oval pitch has underlined how fragile the mind of a batsman can be.

Yes, this pitch is not quite as true as the surfaces normally prepared in South London but it is far from being a terror track. Indeed, hardly any of the wickets to fall in this absorbing Test have been directly down to the ball misbehaving once it has made contact with earth.

Batsmen, in general, are spoilt by the quality of surfaces they play on. The vast majority of pitches are hard and true, and allow them to play their strokes with confidence and freedom. But when a pitch does not meet with their approval, too few members of the team's batting line-up seem prepared to battle it out and post a watchful hundred. If they cannot bat as they want, many do not appear interested.

It is said a spinner only has to turn one ball or a swing bowler swing just a single delivery to create doubt in a batsman's mind, and it seems that only the occasional ball has to misbehave when it hits the pitch to create the same anxiety. The nature of the dismissal of several of England's batsmen on Thursday highlighted this. When a batsman does not trust a pitch, his weight tends to be on the back foot when driving and this is why a couple of Englishmen were caught in the backward point/gully region.

A combination of the pitch and match situation would have increased the levels of anxiety among Australia's batsmen, especially after a couple of deliveries in James Anderson's opening over yesterday broke through the top. Stuart Broad bowled beautifully but the batting of Ricky Ponting's side was insipid because no deliveries reared sharply off a good length and flew at a batsman's throat. Yes, the odd ball stopped slightly but the change in pace was no greater than a well disguised slower ball. In Australia there will no doubt be accusations of pitch doctoring, which would be an unfair conclusion. Time would be better spent looking at why the tourists chose to omit a spinner on such a dry surface. Bill Gordon, the head groundsman, would have been encouraged to produce a pitch that heightened the chance of a result, and quite rightly so. If this Test had been played on a benign, batter-friendly pitch, a surface that allowed the game to drift to a bore draw, the series would have reached an unsatisfactory conclusion.

Even a one-eyed Australian fan would not have wanted that. In order for the home side to doctor a pitch effectively it would need to be stronger in a particular area, and this is not the case. England had the potential to play an extra spinner but they chose not to, which is an indication they did not believe the pitch would play as it has. The seam attacks of both sides are similar, so no advantage would be gained there.

The risks attached with producing a pitch where the toss is crucial are extremely high, because there is only a 50 per cent chance of success. Had the pitch been doctored and Australia won the toss, the tactic could have backfired horribly. In refunds and lost corporate hospitality, an early finish will cost the ECB a considerable sum of money, but it will be dwarfed by the future income generated by an Ashes-winning England side.

Broad must play McGrath role

It is to be hoped Stuart Broad's magnificent bowling display yesterday will convince him how he should bowl in Test cricket.

Young bowlers want to and believe they can bowl every ball in the book. Their ambition is admirable but it is unrealistic.

There have been days when it has looked like Broad has tried to fill the role of Stephen Harmison and be England's enforcer, others when he has attempted to pitch the ball up and swing it like James Anderson.

Broad is at his most effective when he looks to fulfil a role similar to that of Glenn McGrath. Showing patience and bowling a consistent line and length may not be as sexy as releasing 95mph away-swingers but it can be mighty effective, as Broad showed yesterday.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

Latest on the Labour leadership contest
Froome seals second Tour de France victory

Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

The uses of sarcasm

'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

No vanity, but lots of flair

A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

In praise of foraging

How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food