Sheffield Shield 2023-24 – ‘That’s embarrassing’ – Tim Paine slams uneven SCG pitch

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Former Australia captain Tim Paine has slammed the SCG pitch produced for the Sheffield Shield match between New South Wales and Tasmania as an “absolute disgrace”, after 24 wickets tumbled on the third day with the visitors bowled out for 68, but there remains confidence in the quality of surfaces for upcoming matches including the New Year’s Test against Pakistan.

The clatter of wickets came across just 63 overs on Thursday, as batters were confronted with extreme seam movement and uneven bounce. Tasmania fell well short of chasing 143 after the home side had themselves lost 9 for 55 in the second innings.

“That wicket was absolute disgrace,” Paine told SEN Tassie. “This a Test venue in the strongest state in the country, and they rolled that up. That’s embarrassing. The ball was seaming sideways, it was going up and down, it wasn’t fit for first-class cricket. That was a disgraceful wicket.

“I haven’t spoken to people, but you could see it on the screen it had those cracks where it’s like got grass over it. You don’t even see that in club cricket.”

Paine questioned how such a surface could be produced at a major Test venue, and said that it undermined the Sheffield Shield competition.

“What’s going on at Cricket New South Wales or the SCG? That was such a bad wicket to play cricket on,” he said. “Whether we won or lost, whatever, I could have bowled on that and taken wickets. It’s not good enough.

“How that can happen at one of the premier Test venues around the world is a disgrace. That was below standard for grade cricket and this is meant to be the premier first-class cricket competition in the world, and that is meant to be one of the iconic Test match venues… and that’s what we are getting served up.”

New types of grass are being used at the SCG this season, with the Shield surfaces comprising a different variety than will form the Test pitch against Pakistan in early January. ESPNcricinfo understands that there are no concerns about the quality of pitch that will be brought up for that Test, which is shaping as David Warner‘s farewell from the format, and will be played on one of the centre wickets used for TV games.

Nathan Lyon, who played in the Tasmania match, was sure the pitch for the Test match would bear little resemblance. “I expect totally different,” he said.

The ground will also host three BBL matches before the Test, with Sydney Sixers facing Melbourne Renegades (December 8), Adelaide Strikers (December 22) and Melbourne Stars (December 26).

However, it also understood that elements of the pitch preparation will be reviewed with the proximity of the WBBL double-header matches on November 26 a potential factor as well as some poor weather.

Chris Tremain, the New South Wales quick who claimed 6 for 31 in Tasmania’s second innings, defended the groundsmen by saying they had been hampered in the build-up by the weather and that the surface had started soft which caused divots to form that then hardened to create the uneven bounce.

“Don’t think that wicket was poorly prepared,” Tremain told ESPNcricinfo. “In the balance of bat versus ball obviously ball was the winner, but I wouldn’t be too quick to hang the groundsman out to dry.”

Tasmania captain Jordan Silk, while more measured than Paine in his views, said conditions had been skewed too far towards the ball.

“I’ve played quite a lot Shield cricket, and can’t say I’ve played on a wicket quite like that where the ball was nipping around a lot. There were cracks on lines, and it was snaky,” he said. “You had not just the sideways movement but you also had a few balls climbing up then some climbing down.

“Think you can cop a bit of wear and tear over the course of a game; but when there’s been 40 wickets in 160 overs of cricket, you probably think it’s a bit too heavily weighted towards the bowlers. And that’s coming from someone who is really keen on having some sporting wickets, but it was slightly too far towards the bowling side.”

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