Pitch perfect: how to get Test matches back in the swing of things

Anyone with a ticket for tomorrow's play here may have been prepared to argue otherwise while 12 wickets were falling in the space of 33 overs, but thank heavens for a bit of unpredictable bounce and conditions that encouraged swing bowling.

Test cricket was alive, kicking and a joy to watch in Nottingham yesterday.

The same, it is safe to assume, could not be said about the game grinding to a halt in Colombo, where Sri Lanka and India finally – and mercifully – shook hands on a stalemate after five days during which the only contest was not between bat and ball but whether stumps would be drawn before a frustrated bowler could take a pickaxe to the pitch.

Five years ago, Shahid Afridi – later to become Pakistan captain – tried to scuff up a pan-flat strip in Faisalabad by pirouetting on a good length while wearing his spikes and at a time when everyone else in the ground was more concerned about an exploding gas canister. Afridi received his come-uppance from the match referee, but at least a few folk at the Sinhalese Sports Club this week must have thought a bit of pitch-tampering would not be such a bad idea.

The International Cricket Council is looking at all sorts of ideas to breathe fresh life into the oldest form of the game in those parts of the world where attendances are in steady decline. But even floodlights and pink balls might struggle to add colour to a "contest" like the one in Colombo, which produced nearly 1,500 runs and only 17 wickets.

As Angus Fraser, formerly of England and, more recently, this newspaper, was occasionally heard to mutter when bowling his heart out for Middlesex: "Why is it that they send for the pitch inspector when 15 wickets fall in a championship day but do nothing if none go down?" Only he didn't say "nothing".

There was never any danger of batsmen gorging themselves silly in a featherbed heaven at Trent Bridge yesterday. Even though Eoin Morgan and Paul Collingwood had added more than 200 runs for England's fifth wicket, Pakistan's bowlers soon had a spring in their step with a nearly new ball swinging nicely from their hands. And didn't Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer use the conditions to their advantage to wrap up the home side's first innings in quick time?

Swing, of course, is impossible to predict with any degree of certainty. And it cannot be ordered because humidity, cloud cover, breeze, condition of the ball and even the height of the stands around the ground seem to play a part in producing curve and swerve. But even if bowlers had struggled in vain to find assistance through the air, yesterday's cricket would still have been interesting because there was just enough in the pitch to prevent batsmen from taking liberties.

No delivery misbehaved badly but cracks, which may widen and loosen if the game progresses beyond today, created a hint of uncertainty – and some early turn for the spinners. Probably the biggest encouragement for England's bowlers, though, was provided, pre-Test, by Pakistan captain Salman Butt, who wondered out loud whether Asif and Aamer were the best opening pair around. That must have come as a red rag to a bull to Jimmy Anderson, in particular, and he responded by using the shiny red ball like a king of swing on his way to another five-wicket haul.

Anderson did receive one unexpected present on his 28th birthday with Azhar Ali failing to use the decision review system when it would surely have saved him. But, like all bowlers, Anderson needs the rub of the green to go his way from time to time.

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss