The Gabba pitch has officially been rated ‘below average’ by the International Cricket Council for the NRMA Insurance Test against South Africa that finished inside two days.
The rating, imposed by the ICC’s match referee Richie Richardson, sees the Brisbane venue earn its first demerit point.
That demerit point will stay on the ground’s record for the next five years. If a ground receives five demerit points it will be banned from hosting international cricket.
There are two lower tiers on the ICC’s six-tier rating system: ‘poor’ and ‘unfit’, which attract three and five demerit points respectively.
“Overall, the Gabba pitch for this Test match was too much in favor of the bowlers,” Richardson said.
“There was extra bounce and occasional excessive seam movement. The odd delivery also kept low on the second day, making it very difficult for batters to build partnerships.
“I found the pitch to be “below average” as per the ICC guidelines since it was not an even contest between bat and ball.”
It’s the fourth successive summer the Gabba’s Test pitch has slipped a tier on the ICC’s rating system.
In November 2019 the pitch was rated ‘very good’ for the Test against Pakistan, the top rating the ICC can give.
The following summer the pitch was rated ‘good’ for the Test against India that saw Australia have it’s 32-year undefeated streak at the venue snapped.
Last summer’s Ashes Test at the venue was rated ‘average’ by the ICC. That match saw England bowled out for 147 and 297 while Australia piled up 425 en route to a nine-wicket win.
Steve Smith claimed in the immediate aftermath of Australia’s six-wicket win it was “probably the most challenging wicket I’ve seen in Australia in terms of seam, up and down bounce, spin …”
“It was like there were different areas of moisture on the wicket, so some balls were taking divots and going slow off the wicket, others were hitting harder parts of the wicket and zinging through,” Smith told cricket.com.au.
“So once those soft bits are hit, it creates some divots as well.
“You would’ve seen a lot of the balls that hit the divots and either shot low or took off, so as a batter it’s very difficult to play against.”
South Africa captain Dean Elgar was not impressed with the surface in the wake of a Test that saw his team bowled out for 152 and 99 within 86 overs.
“You’ve got to ask yourself the question – is that a good advertisement for our format?” Elgar said.
“Thirty-four wickets in two days – pretty one-sided affair, I would say.
“I am a purist of this format and we want to see the game go to four or five days.
“And the nature of it, how it started to play with some seriously steep bounce with the old ball, you are kind of on a hiding to none as a batting unit.
“If you think about it, only two or maybe three batters, applied themselves half-decently and scored runs.
“I don’t think it was a very good Test wicket, no.”
Pat Cummins is no stranger to playing Tests on pitches rated ‘below average’ – matches against Pakistan in Rawalpindi and Sri Lanka in Galle this winter also received the rating – but the fast bowling captain had no issues with the green pitch produced in Brisbane.
“Personally, I don’t mind when the groundsman err on the greener side occasionally,” Cummins said.
“I’ve played a lot of Test matches when they’ve erred on the flatter side, so I think it was the same for both teams.”
Recent pitch ratings for the Gabba
Oct 19 T20 v Sri Lanka: Very Good
Nov 19 Test v Pakistan: Very Good
Jan 21 Test v India: Good
Dec 21 Test v England: Average
Oct 22 T20 v West Indies: Very Good
Dec 22 Test v South Africa: Below Average
Men’s NRMA Insurance Test Series v South Africa
First Tests: Australia won by six wickets
Dec 26-30: Second Test, MCG, 10.30am AEDT
Jan 4-8: Third Test, SCG, 10.30am AEDT
Australia squad: Pat Cummins (c), Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Lance Morris, Nathan Lyon, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, David Warner
South Africa squad: Dean Elgar (c), Temba Bavuma, Gerald Coetzee, Theunis de Bruyn, Sarel Eree, Simon Harmer, Marco Jansen, Keshav Maharaj, Heinrich Klaasen, Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, Kagiso Rabada, Rassie van der Dussen, Kyle Verreynne, Lizaad Williams Khaya Zondo