Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
A cricket pitch is the central strip of the playing area between the wickets. The pitch is 22 yards long and 10 feet wide. The surface is very flat and normally covered with extremely short grass though this grass is soon removed by wear at the ends of the pitch.
In amateur matches, artificial pitches are commonly used. These can be a slab of concrete, overlaid with a coir mat, or artificial turf. Artificial pitches are rare in professional cricket - only being used when exhibition matches are played in regions where cricket is not a common sport.
The word wicket is often used to refer to the pitch. Although technically incorrect according the Laws of Cricket (Law 7 covers the pitch and Law 8 the wickets, distinguishing between them), cricket players, followers, and commentators persist in the usage, with context eliminating any possible ambiguity.
State of the pitch
If the grass on a natural pitch is longer or more moist than usual, the pitch is described as green. A green pitch favours the bowler over the batsman as the ball can be made to behave erratically on longer or wet grass. Most club and social cricket is played on pitches that professional cricketers would call green.
A sticky wicket is a pitch that has become wet. This causes the ball to behave erratically, particularly for the slower or spin bowlers. However, wickets are now generally protected from rain and dew preceding and during games so that a sticky wicket is rarely seen in first-class cricket. The phrase, however, has retained currency and extended beyond cricket to mean any difficult situation.
As a match progresses, the pitch dries out. The Laws of Cricket prevent the pitch from being watered during a match. As it dries out, initially batting becomes easier as any moisture disappeares. Over the course of a four or five-day match, however, the pitch begins to crack, then crumble and become dusty. This again favours bowlers, particularly spin bowlers who can obtain large amounts of traction on the surface and make the ball spin a long way.
This change in the relative difficulties of batting and bowling as the state of the pitch changes during a match is one of the primary strategic considerations that the captain of a the team who wins the coin toss will take into account when deciding which team will bat first.
Covering the pitch
The pitch is said to be covered when there are covers on it to protect it against rain or dew. Whether covers are used or not significantly affects the way the ball comes of the pitch, making the issue a controversial one. Law 11 of the Laws of cricket provides that during the match the pitch shall not be completely covered during unless provided otherwise by regulations or by agreement before the toss. When possible, the bowlers' run ups are covered in inclement weather to keep them dry. If the pitch is covered overnight, the covers are removed in the morning at the earliest possible moment on each day that play is expected to take place. If covers are used during the day as protection from inclement weather, or if inclement weather delays the removal of overnight covers, they are removed as soon as conditions allow.
Preparation and maintenance of the playing area
Law 10 of the Laws of cricket sets out rules covering the preparation and maintenance of the playing area.
Rolling the pitch
During the match the pitch may be rolled at the request of the captain of the batting side, for a period of not more than 7 minutes, before the start of each innings, other than the first innings of the match, and before the start of each subsequent day's play. In addition, if, after the toss and before the first innings of the match, the start is delayed, the captain of the batting side may request to have the pitch rolled for not more than 7 minutes, unless the umpires together agree that the delay has had no significant effect on the state of the pitch. Once the game has begun, rolling may not take place other than under these circumstances.
If there is more than one roller available the captain of the batting side shall have the choice. There are detailed rules to make sure that rolling, where possible, is conducted so as not to delay the game, but, if necessary, the game is delayed to allow the batting captain to have up to 7 minutes rolling if he so wishes.
Before a pitch is rolled it is first swept to avoid any possible damage by rolling in debris. The pitch is also cleared of any debris at all intervals for meals, between innings and at the beginning of each day. The only exception to this is that the umpires do not allow sweeping to take place where they consider it may be detrimental to the surface of the pitch.
Both the pitch and the outfield is mown on each day of a match on which play is expected to take place, if ground and weather conditions allow. Once a game has begun mowings are carried out under the supervision of the umpires.
Footholes and footholds
The umpires are required to make sure that bowlers' and batsmen's footholes are cleaned out and dried whenever necessary to facilitate play. In matches of more than one day's duration, if necessary, the footholes made by the bowler in his delivery stride may be returfed or covered with quick-setting fillings to make them safe and secure. Players may also secure their footholds using sawdust provided that the pitch is not damaged or they do not do so in a way that is unfair to the other team.
Law 10 also provides that the pitch is not watered during the match and that the creases are re-marked whenever either umpire considers it necessary.
Practice on the field
Players are not allowed to practise bowling or batting on the pitch, or on the area parallel and immediately adjacent to the pitch, at any time on any day of the match. Practice on a day of a match on any other part of the cricket square is only permitted before the start of play or after the close of play on that day, but must cease 30 minutes before the scheduled start of play or if it is detrimental to the surface of the square.
Typically players do practise on the field of play, but not on the cricket square, during the game. Also bowlers sometimes practise run ups during the game. However, no practice or trial run up is permitted on the field of play during play if it could result in a waste of time. The rules concerning practice on the field are covered principally by Law 17 of the Laws of cricket.
The word pitch also refers to the bouncing of the ball, usually on the pitch. In this context, the ball is said to pitch before it reaches the batsman. Where the ball pitches can be qualified as pitched short (bouncing nearer the bowler), pitched up (nearer the batsman), or pitched on a length (somewhere in between).
Note that, unlike baseball, the word pitch is not used to mean the act of propelling the ball towards the batsman. This is usually referred to as a ball or a delivery. (Also note that the word ball does not imply anything about the accuracy of the ball.)
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