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WICKETSAre you as bamboozled by 'turning tracks' and 'dry surfaces' as many English batsmen seem to be? oxford
But what are the factors that make cricket wickets play in a certain way, and do the players or the pitch itself have a bigger influence on a match result? Atmospheric factors combine with the actual 'ingredients' in a pitch to dictate the way it will play for the competing batsmen and bowlers.
Traditionally temperate climates as in England and also New Zealand tend to produce 'greener' wickets, with a grassier, more moist surface.
These help the quicker pace bowlers to extract seam movement from the pitch, but why?
The answer lies in the relative friction of the ball's seam in contact with the pitch compared to when the non-seam surface on the ball.
Most pitches across the Test playing nations are prepared to give the home side the best possible chance of winning
By contrast, crumbly and cracked powder dry surfaces produce more (if inconsistent) bounce and slower pace which gives the ball more chance to grip better as a whole. As such, spinners can extract more turn from the surface and expect the ball to 'do more' if they really send it spinning from the wrist or their fingers. Of course, these are the two extreme surfaces and most pitches tend to incorporate elements of both in their make-up.
Former Surrey groundsman and ECB pitches consultant Harry Brind acknowledges the difference in surfaces between England and the sub-continent.
"It's the atmospheric conditions that are so different, with the intensely dry heat a big contributing factor to the state of the pitches."
"The soil used in Engllish wickets wouldn't last five minutes in that sort of climate. There is a lot more clay in the soil used to prepare pitches in the sub-continent."
Brind also admits that pitches are honed to help the home side on many occasions.
"I endeavoured to prepare the best possible pitch when I was groundsman at Surrey.
"By that I mean one that could last five days, with pace early on for the quick bowlers and good consistent bounce for the batsmen, then gradually wearing to give some encouragement to the spinners.
"But I would also say that most pitches across the Test playing nations are prepared to give the home side the best possible chance of winning."
As for England's prospects on the pitches in Pakistan, Brind prefers to highlight the quality of the home side's bowlers.
"World-class spinners don't necessarily need a lot of encouragement. Just a little pace and bounce is all they need to cause trouble if they can really give the ball a good tweak.
"For example, Saqlain shone at the Oval for Surrey, as did Sri Lanka's Murali at Old Trafford for Lancashire, both on pitches in England where other spinners didn't enjoy so much success."
"If England's spinners bowl line and length, there is no reason why the pitches should not give them plenty of help too."