Australia steers clear of England-style pitch doctoring

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Fresh from seizing the moral high ground courtesy of the Jonny Bairstow headbutt-that-wasn’t affair, the Australians appear eager to stay there after declaring there will be no doctoring of the Adelaide pitch for the second Test.

In doing so, the hosts have refused to follow England’s lead of rolling out strips designed to return the urn to Blighty in 2015.

Other than being asked to prepare a pitch that fosters an even contest, Adelaide curator Damian Hough has a free hand to serve up the wicket of his choosing.

Cricket Australia doesn’t exert influence over groundsmen at international level other than to say ‘prepare your best wicket’, because we want to see a balance in the game,” a Cricket Australia spokesman told The Australian yesterday. “Our grounds have unique characteristics, and we encourage our groundsmen to show those. If they do that, the players will all have an opportunity to bring their individual skills into the game, and the fans will get to see runs and wickets at any match they attend.”

That is the opposite of the view promulgated by many in the opposing camp, including Jimmy Anderson who has in the past urged local curators to think of ­England as they reclined on their ride-on rollers.

When we go to Australia, they prepare the pitches to suit their team,” Anderson said after ­England won 3-2 in 2015. “Even if we did (doctor pitches), everyone else in the whole world prepares pitches to give them home advantage and I don’t see why it should be any different here. We should prepare pitches that suit us.”

Cricket Australia, however, has drawn anything but a wobbly line separating national administrator and provincial curator on the matter of pitch preparation.

The CA declaration follows claims it instructed Hough to prepare a dry strip for the South Australia-NSW Sheffield Shield match last month.

According to Adelaide Sunday Mail columnist and former Redback Ben Hook, CA wanted the grass cut lower so Mitchell Starc had a tough workout in his return from injury, and so Steve Smith could have a decent bat against the pink ball.

The opposite occurred: Starc ran through SA to return his best- ever innings figures of 8-73, Smith was out for 3 and 9, and the game was over inside three days.

Extreme reverse swing on the sparse, abrasive surface was suggested as the reason for the bowler-dominated game, but CA strongly denied it had asked Hough to shave grass off the pitch.

We did not order anything for that Shield match,” a spokesman said yesterday.

So Hough is operating without intervention from CA, but outside forces are hard at work two days out from the second Test.

Adelaide baked at 38C yesterday but a late change today will bring rain, easing to showers for days one and two.

In the past, drop-in pitches have been reluctant to break up, constrained as they are in their portable trays. That factor will be compounded in the mild conditions forecast for the first three days of the Test.

So the changeable weather will make the hardest task in Australian cricket curating — preparing a wicket for a pink-ball, day-night Test — even harder.

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