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ICC expert warns of batsman-friendly pitches

THE International Cricket Council's pitch expert has blamed too much limited-overs cricket and a proliferation of Twenty20 games for the increasing number of batting-friendly wickets that threaten to ruin test cricket.

"With the huge amount of one-day and Twenty20 cricket around the world, it seems that some people have forgotten the art of preparing a five-day pitch," Andy Atkinson wrote in the May issue of The Wisden Cricketer magazine.

Atkinson's assertion appears to be borne out by the Pakistani wickets used for this year's Sri Lankan tour, which produced unusually high batting totals at the expense of the bowlers. Atkinson is the ICC's pitches consultant and has visited test grounds around the world to assist local curators produce more competitive wickets.

However, international wickets seem to increasingly favor batsmen and more and more teams are finding it difficult to bowl out their opponents twice in a test.

"The quality of the surfaces might be improving but that doesn't mean the pitches are better for cricket as a whole," Atkinson said.

"It's about getting the right balance and it is now too far in favor of the batsman. It needs to come back towards the bowler."

Atkinson has taught the art of making good test pitches to Pakistani curators, but in the recent home test series against Sri Lanka, batsmen from both teams appeared to score unhindered.

Sri Lanka declared its first innings at 644-7 in the first test at Karachi before Pakistan posted its best ever total with 765-6 declared. Pakistan captain Younis Khan scored 313. The 10 wickets to fall in three days came at 94 runs apiece and at just over one per session.

Sri Lanka went on to score 606 in the second test at Lahore.

Atkinson, the former Warwickshire and Essex groundsman, was also disappointed with the wickets used during England's recent test series in the West Indies. "It was very disappointing to see how bland some of the pitches (in the West Indies were)," he said. "Most of them are new pitches laid specifically for the World Cup in 2007 and yet they seem to have deteriorated since then."

"The ICC wants to preserve the primacy of test cricket and part of that is having pitches that produce good games, not bore draws," he said. "They want pace and even bounce, but beyond that they want pitches to retain their local, traditional characteristics like seam in England or spin in India."


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