Time for Lord's to put pitches in order

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The Independent Online
It was a travesty of a cricket pitch. The fact that it was produced for a showpiece one-day final made it even more culpable and no amount of diplomatic wriggling by those in charge at Lord's must be allowed to blur the issue.

Roger Knight, the secretary of MCC, blamed the weather as well as the pitch but he said: "It was not a pitch for a side to be bowled out for 50 on."

I would have liked to have seen him try to play the shooter from Glen Chapple which cut back and bowled Ronnie Irani.

He would not have had any more success with the one which bowled Robert Rollins either. It moved into Rollins with Chapple's arm and then seamed away off the pitch and hit the top of the off-stump. Don Bradman would have struggled with that one. There was much more incontrovertible evidence too.

It is a tragedy that Lord's, of all places, should have prepared a pitch like this for such an important game and one hopes that those in authority there are prepared to take a long hard look at what is going on. Although it was not as bad as that for the first Test match at Edgbaston, the pitch for the second against India was less than ideal with its badly uneven bounce. The pitches are not as good as they were.

Lord's has a responsibility to the game far beyond that of any other ground. It is the home of cricket for those who aspire to play the game anywhere in the world. It is the centrepiece of English cricket where one-day finals, in addition to Test matches, are annually and traditionally held. Three World Cup finals have been played there and in 1999 there will be another.

On Saturday, millions of people will have felt badly let down. The television audience no less than the full house at Lord's will have been hoping to see a stirring final with the customary late finish on a pitch which was the same for both sides with much scintillating stroke play into the bargain.

As it was, the surface was poor at the start when the ball moved extravagantly and did not come on to the bat so that stroke-makers could prosper. By the afternoon, batting was nothing more than a lottery.

And this for the biggest domestic one-day occasion of the summer. Lord's will no doubt react with horror not to say indignation to the criticism they will justifiably receive. But after the initial reactions they must take a long, hard look at what has happened and why it has happened and they must make sure that it never happens again for this or any other occasion.

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