County news February 17, 2017

ECB mulls artificial pitches for T20


The quality of pitches for T20 has proved a contentious point in the past © Getty Images

The ECB is looking into the possibility of using artificial pitches in its proposed new T20 competition.

Keen to ensure the best-possible surfaces (for batsmen, anyway) for a competition seen as vital in attracting a new audience to the game, the ECB recently held a meeting with county groundsmen where the idea was discussed. ESPNcricinfo understands that Chris Wood, the ECB's Pitch Consultant, has been charged with researching how to introduce such surfaces ahead of the launch of the competition in 2020.

There are significant pros and cons to the use of such pitches. While it would likely result in a certain homogenisation of conditions and provide even less opportunity for bowlers to extract anything from surfaces, it would also enable grounds to provide the centre-wicket pitches required by broadcasters multiple times without concerns about deterioration. Artificial surfaces might also be considered to provide uniformity of conditions for both teams, which a turf surface will not always offer.

Drop-in surfaces have also been considered but are not thought to be cost effective or provide quite the same uniformity of performance.

While long-term lovers of cricket may have reservations about artificial surfaces, the ECB's mantra over the new competition is that it is not designed to appeal to those already watching the game: it is designed to appeal to the vast potential audience that is currently immune to its charms. The ECB feels that providing such good-paced surfaces will help create the high-scoring, boundary-filled cricket it believes will attract that new audience. It might also minimise delays after poor weather.

To that end, Wood is looking into the best options and cost implications of laying such pitches close to the middle of squares in all first-class grounds.

It is a move that will do nothing to address the increasing imbalance between bat and ball and might rob the game of the sort of low-scoring thrillers that made the 1983 World Cup final, the 2015 World Cup match between New Zealand and Australia and the 2003 World Cup match between Australia and England - among many others - so memorable. But subtlety appears to be one the likely victims of the T20 revolution.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • frank on February 19, 2017, 10:09 GMT

    The vast (?Where does ECB get solid figures for this from - after all,the population of UK is not that large and cricket is not the major sport,as in some other cricket playing countries) potential audience currently immune to the charms of cricket can easily be tapped by returning ALL domestic 1st class and international cricket in the country to free to air TV - a much quicker and more effective way than by introducing a manufactured product that will inevitably result in perhaps as many as half the First Class counties disappearing.Perhaps that is what the ECB actually wants...

  • Russell on February 19, 2017, 9:35 GMT

    the more i think about it the more i'm certain that T20 should do what Rugby League did in 1895 - there are now 2 sports, well one sport and one circus...if not that then maybe how Rugby Union is now 2 sports - the proper game with an add-on globetrotting jamboree (sevens) for the hard of should have its own players, own grounds, own rules and own fanbase and leave those of us who want real cricket to get on with it

  • mrksob6939510 on February 19, 2017, 2:35 GMT

    artificial pitches wow, finally ECB go it rite what's next artificial umpires too.

  • derek on February 18, 2017, 13:01 GMT

    Apart from be unresponsive for the bowlers,it will also cause serious injury.Big fast bowlers pounding down on hard surfaces with no give whatsoever is bound to cause ankle and shinbone injuries. Bowlers wearing spikes will also cause problems as i found out when i badly twisted my knee whilst running across an artificial pitch

  • Jim on February 17, 2017, 21:55 GMT

    Why is it that dumbing down is always seen as the way to bring in the "masses"? What happens when these "masses" soon tire of the dumb game? Newsflash: over-hyped and flashy lasts a year or two, then gets cancelled. Let's have some long-term thinking, pretty please.

  • analys6814272 on February 17, 2017, 21:36 GMT

    Pitch reporters and curators will be out of business, gone too will be team strategy, batting first/second approach, significance of winning tosses, tactics, reading the pitch, etc. It will kill all the excitement and beauty of the game and the pitch!

  • Prateek on February 17, 2017, 21:23 GMT

    Brain Fade. Congrats ECB!

  • alansa4022707 on February 17, 2017, 21:15 GMT

    While artificial pitches are a fact of life in some club cricket this shouldnt be allowed to creep into the top level of cricket.having bowled many overs on artificial pitches myself i can confirm its even morr of a batsmans game !

  • kenned2901317 on February 17, 2017, 20:20 GMT

    Yes, Just have a bowling machine deliver up long hops; remove LBWs also; bring in the boundary ropes to the 30 yard circle also!

    If this is true that the ECB have stated that this ''competition is not supposed to appeal to existing cricket fans'', good luck with that is all I can say. I mean I was not interested anyway - not liking the proposals and being a fan of red ball cricket - but it is nice to have that fact, that it is ''not for me'', confirmed for me in advance so thank you. I suppose that would also include approx. 80,000 current members of county cricket clubs, not to mention the many who have payed at the tunstiles or watched cricket on television (except of course those who have solely watch the BBL an IPL I suppose?).

    Will there be anyone there at the ECB's ''big event'' one wonders?

  • geoffs8103821 on February 17, 2017, 19:30 GMT

    One word to describe this... Joke, cricket should spread the game but if you offer something thats not real it can only be detrimental too the game.

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