LONDON: Former England batsmen Graeme Fowler and Mark Butcher both took to Twitter to condemn the “awful” pitch used for the World Cup semi-final between India and New Zealand at Old Trafford on Tuesday.
New Zealand found run-scoring tough on what many observers agreed was a slow and two-paced surface, making 211 for five in 46.1 overs before rain forced the match into a reserve day.
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson, one of the world’s best batsmen, took 97 balls to make 67 after winning the toss.
Fowler, who spent the bulk of his first-class career with Old Trafford-based Lancashire, was scathing about the conditions at the Manchester ground, tweeting: “What an awful wicket for (a) World Cup semi-final.
“I feel sorry for the spectators who have travelled and paid hefty prices having to watch this lottery on a very substandard pitch.
“It’s a disgrace.”
India still had to bowl well regardless, and paceman Jasprit Bumrah led a disciplined display by his side’s attack with one wicket for 25 runs in eight overs.
Low scores have been a feature of this World Cup, with pitches playing in significantly different fashion from the surfaces seen in one-day internationals in England during recent years.
Some have attributed this to an unusually wet June hampering groundsmen in their pitch preparation.
But Butcher, like Fowler a former England opener, had little sympathy.
“Sorry, but pitches have been garbage this tournament,” Butcher tweeted.
“Uneven, two-paced…MIGHT give you an exciting 5 overs at the end of a run chase, but you’ve scared everybody off in the previous 95,” he added.
Meanwhile the International Cricket Council again denied accusations it had instructed local groundsmen to prepare deliberately slow pitches.
“The guidance we give any host of an ICC event is to prepare the best possible pitches for the conditions in that country –- so in this case the best possible ODI pitch for typical English conditions and we would also look for even bounce and good carry,” said a statement from the global governing body.
“The ICC does not instruct groundsmen to prepare pitches in a certain way to advantage, or disadvantage, any team.”
England batsman Jonny Bairstow, whose host side face champions Australia in Thursday’s second semi-final at Birmingham’s Edgbaston ground, had previously queried why this tournament’s pitches were so different from those normally associated with World Cup venues.
“The pitches we’ve been playing on the last two years are surely the pitches we would be playing on in a World Cup? I don’t know why they’ve changed,” Bairstow said.
Williamson has been New Zealand’s run-scoring rock this World Cup and former England fast-medium bowler Mike Selvey tweeted Tuesday: “Travelling home and reflecting that I have seen one of the finest innings I’ve ever witnessed from Kane Williamson today.
“Look and learn those who think teeing off is the only answer,” Selvey, also a former cricket correspondent of the Guardian newspaper, added.