, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 193-207

Predicting the playing character of cricket pitches

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Abstract

A cricket pitch is a prepared strip of compacted soil and closely mown turf onto which the bowler projects the ball. The surface is of fundamental importance to the game and groundstaff seek to ensure that the ball rebound is of sufficient pace, bounce and consistency to promote skill in both the batsman and bowler. The scientific understanding of the factors that influence the playing quality of a pitch is incomplete and groundstaff often rely on experience and ‘rules of thumb’. A major programme of research was undertaken to determine the effectiveness of a range of pitch measurement apparatus that are perceived to provide indications of playing character. Over three seasons, 18 fieldwork visits were completed at 11 different first-class county grounds. Pitches were tested at the end of each match and direct assessments of pace, bounce and consistency were achieved by employing an artificial bowler and high speed video arrangement. Measurements of surface friction, hardness and restitution were also recorded. It was found that no single pitch measurement was able to provide a reliable indication of pace or bounce, but, when the measurements were combined in a simple Newtonian model, good predictions of pace were achieved. The study revealed a simple method by which groundstaff can predict pace during crucial stages in pitch preparation. However, the study also showed that bounce is affected by levels of pitch deformation and that development of impact models and bespoke measurement tools is needed to reliably predict variation in bounce.