Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Hampshire Make a Pitch to Win Match

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Hampshire Make a Pitch to Win Match

Article excerpt

Byline: Stuart Rayner

TAKING on Durham with 11 men has become so hard this season that some counties appear to have called up their groundsman for extra help.

Not for the first time in this titlewinning season, the Riversiders showed up at an away ground to be confronted by a pitch which appeared to have been tailored to the opposition.

Somerset produced a green seamer and were lucky to draw after following on, Lancashire a raging turner which Ian Blackwell out-bowled them on.

Allegations of pitch doctoring can be troublesome. After producing a suspiciously uncharacteristic pitch for the deciding Ashes Test at the Oval, the ECB are hardly in a strong position to complain.

That the weather - yesterday apart ironically - has been dreadfully dry in Southampton this summer was evidenced by the bareness of the Rose Bowl outfield. It may have contributed more than any groundstaff jiggery-pokery to a pitch which the heavy wind blew dust up from immediately and which one of Hampshire's two spinners was bowling on after just seven overs.

As it is, the rain and bad light which limited play to only 29 overs on day one could reprieve relegation-threatened Hampshire, but if the pitch was a de-liberate ploy, they are playing with fire. Durham won the toss, got use of the pitch at its best and ought to be able to dictate if they kick on from their overnight 95-1.

"It's a funny wicket really," said captain Will Smith. "I would have thought given Hampshire's situation they would have produced a wicket which was fairly flat and they would aim to get a high-scoring draw and then another in their next match and they would be safe (from relegation). But they seem to have produced a result wicket. Whether they intended it to be quite as up and down and dusty as it is, I don't know. But it certainly is a result wicket. The real key is getting enough runs. …

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