Test Match Sofa
Lancashire relieved to escape pitch penalty
By Graham Hardcastle
Lancashire will be mightily relieved at the outcome of Friday night’s review into the state of the Old Trafford pitch used for their LV= County Championship defeat against Worcestershire, which was completed inside three days.
A call going against them would have left them firmly on the ropes in terms of avoiding the fate suffered by Yorkshire in 2002 and Nottinghamshire in 2006 as the most recent teams to get relegated the year after winning the title.
A three-man ECB panel, comprising of Chris Wood, Jack Birkenshaw and Bill Hughes, deemed that the pitch was poor after 34 of the 40 wickets to fall in the match went to spinners. But they also deemed that Lancashire should be spared punishment due to extenuating circumstances.
“The extenuating circumstances were the weather we've had, the amount of time we've been able to expose the wicket because of bad weather, which has been significant in grass dying off on the square, and the fact that our preparation processes were in line with ECB good practice," said Red Rose cricket director Mike Watkinson.
"The pitch has been pretty much lacking in grass, and it's got quite dry and has taken a reasonable amount of spin from the start. There was no skulduggery at all in that we probably would have stuck them in with four seamers in our side had we won the toss, and we sent Gary Keedy off to play with the seconds.
“The bounce has been consistent. It's also up to debate how much skill batsmen have shown when coping with spin. It was noted that a couple of players worked out a way of playing because the bounce was consistent. That's perhaps something that the other players can learn from.”
Old Trafford, which saw the square turned by 90 degrees at the end of September, 2010, hosts an Ashes Test match next August, which follows a four-day match played there between England Lions and Australia A next month.
The match, which Worcestershire won by 205 runs after bowling Lancashire out for just 63 in their second innings as they chased 269, was only the second Championship fixture played at the ground since the turning of the square, with a new pitch being used for the first time outside one-day and Twenty20 cricket.
The square is made up of a mixture of newly-laid pitches and ones that have been kept from the old square. "This is a new pitch on the extra square,” said Watkinson.
“The Ashes pitch will be played, as was the recent one-day international, on one of the wickets that was common to both directions and used over many years. Unless circumstances change, the England Lions v Australia A match will also be played on the Ashes pitch for next year.”
Watkinson has recently made a playing comeback for Edgworth in the Bolton Association, the club where his son Liam is the professional.
Last week, the pair shared all 10 wickets in a win over rivals Blackrod, with Watkinson senior taking four with his off-spin. Edgworth’s match this weekend will be moved to Old Trafford,” he joked, just before leaving Lancashire’s headquarters after a day of mixed news for the county.
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