Rawalpindi pitch ‘not a good advertisement’: PCB

The Pakistan Cricket Board has confirmed a lifeless Rawalpindi pitch was purposely prepared as part of Pakistan’s strategy to negate Australia’s pace attack, with chairman Ramiz Raja forecasting more low-bouncing pitches for the remaining Tests.

The International Cricket Council’s verdict on the first Test strip that produced just 14 wickets across five days and 379.1 overs is expected to be handed down in the coming days.

A rating of “poor” has not been handed down for an overly batter-friendly track since the 2017 Boxing Day Ashes Test at the MCG, which saw 24 wickets fall for the match and earned condemnation from both Australia and England.

PCB chairman Ramiz Raja admitted the match “wasn’t a good advertisement” for cricket and said he understood the frustration of fans but stressed that, “just for the heck of it, we can’t prepare a fast pitch or a bouncy pitch and put the game in Australia’s lap “.

“It’s important that when we play at home, we play to our strengths,” said the former Test batter in a video posted to Pakistan’s social media and translated by ESPN.

Those strengths, said Raja, were their pacemen operating with reverse swing and their batters’ familiarity with low-bouncing surfaces, while fitness issues for key bowlers along with concerns over their opening batters Abdullah Shafique and Imam-ul-Haq were also factors.

“Abdullah Shafique had only played 2-3 matches, and we were keeping a worrisome eye on his form, and whether he could handle such a good bowling attack or not. Imam-ul-Haq was also making a comeback,” Raja said of the pair who made three centuries between them in the first Test.

The comments will come as no surprise to the Aussies, whose captain Pat Cummins said it was “probably clear they made an effort to try and nullify the pace bowling” at a traditionally seam-friendly Rawalpindi ground.

Fast bowlers Hasan Ali, Faheem Ashraf (both injured) and Haris Rauf (COVID-19) were all unavailable for the Benaud-Qadir series opener, while Raja also said leg-spinner Yasir Shah was not fully fit.

Overnight confirmation that key allrounder Ashraf will now also miss the second Test in Karachi having contracted COVID-19 is a further blow for the hosts.

Aussies wicketless on day five as Shafique, Imam hit tons

“Fans should understand that we will make every effort to have a result-oriented series, but you can’t wave a magic wand and get green pitches or result-oriented pitches,” he said.

“We need to beat Australia, and we need to prepare our strategy accordingly, and the strategy is for low-bouncy tracks where reverse (swing) can happen, where lbw and bowled will be in play, where our spinners can show their performance, and where the batters, who have grown up on low-bounce pitches, can utilize that advantage. “

The ICC deems a poor pitch as “one that does not allow an even contest between bat and ball”.

It also outlines an expectation that venues “that are allocated the responsibility of hosting a match will present the best possible pitch and outfield conditions for that match.”

ICC rules dictate that Test venues will incur two demerit points if a pitch is deemed ‘below average’ by the match referee, three points for a ‘poor’ surface and five points for those classified as ‘unfit’.

Five demerit points over a rolling five-year period will see the venue banned from hosting international matches for 12 months.

Swepson a ‘huge chance’ as series shifts to Karachi, Lahore

“The objective of a Test pitch shall be to allow all the individual skills of the game to be demonstrated by the players at various stages of the match,” read the ICC’s pitch regulations.

“If anything, the balance of the contest between bat and ball in a Test match should slightly favor the bowling team.”

Karachi, where both teams arrived on Wednesday ahead of Saturday’s second Test, has a reputation for providing more spin-friendly surfaces.

Eighteen of the 33 wickets to fall in last year’s Pakistan-South Africa Test there were taken by slow bowlers.

Coach Andrew McDonald said Australia could call in spin-bowling back-up for Nathan Lyon if conditions suit, with Josh Hazlewood or Mitchell Starc the likely men to make way if Mitchell Swepson earns a debut or Ashton Agar is recalled.

“I hope that this series, going forward, will become more interesting, but only one match is done, so don’t jump the gun, there’s a lot of cricket to be played,” said Raja.

Qantas Tour of Pakistan 2022

Pakistan squad: Babar Azam (c), Mohammad Rizwan (vc), Abdullah Shafique, Azhar Ali, Fawad Alam, Haris Rauf, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Wasim, Naseem Shah, Nauman Ali, Sajid Khan, Saud Shakeel, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shan Masood, Zahid Mahmood.

Australia Test squad: Pat Cummins (c), Ashton Agar, Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Steve Smith (vc), Mitchell Starc , Mark Steketee, Mitchell Swepson, David Warner. On standby: Sean Abbott, Brendan Doggett, Nic Maddinson, Matthew Renshaw

First Test: Match drawn

March 12-16: Second Test, Karachi

March 21-25: Third Test, Lahore

Australia ODI and T20 squad: Aaron Finch (c), Sean Abbott, Ashton Agar, Jason Behrendorff, Alex Carey, Nathan Ellis, Cameron Green, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Marnus Labuschagne, Mitchell Marsh, Ben McDermott, Kane Richardson, Steve Smith, Marcus Stoinis, Adam Zampa

March 29: First ODI, Rawalpindi

March 31: Second ODI, Rawalpindi

April 2: Third ODI, Rawalpindi

April 5: Only T20I, Rawalpindi

All matches to be broadcast in Australia on Fox Cricket and Kayo Sports

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