Cricket legends blast 'poor' Gabba pitch as Aussies win two-day Test

Ricky Ponting, pictured here in commentary during the cricket.
Ricky Ponting was highly critical of the Gabba pitch as Australia ran through South Africa in the first cricket Test. Image: Getty

Cricket legends Ricky Ponting and Matthew Hayden have bemoaned the state of the pitch at the Gabba after Australia won the first Test against South Africa in less than two days. In controversial scenes that have divided the cricket world, a staggering 34 wickets fell on the two days of play as the green pitch wreaked havoc for batsmen.

Wickets continued to tumble in bunches on the second day as Australia stumbled over the line for a six-wicket victory. South Africa were bowled out for just 99 on Sunday before Australia lost four wickets in chasing the 45 runs required for victory.

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Nineteen wickets fell on the second day in Brisbane after 15 on day one. It marked just the second time in cricket history that a Test match in Australia has finished inside two days.

Australia went to stumps at 5-145 on the opening day and lost their final five wickets for 73 when play resumed on Sunday. The carnage continued when South Africa commenced their second innings, falling to 2-3 and 3-6 before a mini-fightback from Temba Bavuma.

But Bavuma's dismissal for 29 sparked another collapse and South Africa were reduced to 7-66 at the tea break and eventually bowled out for just 99 in embarrassing scenes. Chasing 45 for victory, Australia then lost Usman Khawaja (2), David Warner (3), Steve Smith (6) and Travis Head (0) before limping over the line.

The pitch at the Gabba proved a minefield for batsmen, with only Head (92) and Kyle Verreynne (64) passing 50 in the match (both in the first innings). Curators left a lot more grass on the wicket than we're used to seeing in Brisbane, with the pitch dubbed a 'green monster' by a number of commentators. The pace bowlers enjoyed much more seam movement than is usually on offer at the Gabba, sparking a number of batting collapses.

Discussing the state of the pitch with journalist Peter Lalor on Channel 7, Ponting said he wouldn't be surprised if the pitch was given a 'poor' rating from the ICC. The governing body of world cricket gives the pitch a rating after every Test match, with a 'poor' rating resulting in three demerit points. Grounds can be stripped of their Test status if they incur too many demerit points.

"I've never seen anything like this at the Gabba. Matthew Hayden has played a lot more cricket here than me and he's never seen anything like it. And Justin Langer said the same thing," Ponting said. "There was a little bit of moisture on day one - what you expect from The Gabba. What we have seen is excessive seam movement.

"I think it will get a poor rating. To have 22 wickets fall in the first four sessions of a Test match says to me these are very, very good bowling teams, no doubt about that. I don't think that the batters are that bad.

"Speaking to some of the players this morning, they think it is as difficult surface they have ever played on. A lot of these guys have played a lot of cricket. They have played a lot of cricket. They have played on some pretty tough wickets in different places around the world. So probably pretty justified at the moment."

Hayden added: "I have never seen it that green. I couldn't believe it when I walked outside the commentary box and it looked like they painted lines on the outfield.

"I was well used to that in Sheffield Shield cricket. We had that so much in our former years where you would get a really, really green wicket, a soft wicket, a damp wicket almost.

"I have been here for a long time, nearly 30 years, and this is the only one unsatisfactory so far in the game. We are not perfect. We can't get it right all the time. It looks to me that they have overcooked this one on the grass. But they don't get it wrong too often up here."

Langer said a two-day Test was 'disastrous' for Test cricket in Australia. However he pointed out that Head and Steve Smith had both managed to score easily when they applied themselves.

Scott Boland, pictured here after taking the wicket of Marco Jansen in the first Test between Australia and South Africa.
Scott Boland celebrates taking the wicket of Marco Jansen in the first Test between Australia and South Africa. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images) (Bradley Kanaris via Getty Images)

Mitchell Starc joins 300 Test wicket club

Aussie speedster Mitchell Starc was among the bowlers to cash in, becoming just the seventh Australian to take 300 Test wickets in the process. Entering the match needing four wickets to reach 300, Starc took three in the first innings to be left stranded on 299.

However he made sure of the milestone when he clean-bowled Rassie van der Dussen on Sunday with a trademark in-swinger. The left-armer comfortably has the best strike-rate among the seven Australian bowlers to have at least 300 Test wickets at 49.5.

Starc's milestone came after Pat Cummins trapped Dean Elgar lbw for just two, making it a horror match for the South African captain after he scored three in the first innings. Cummins struck again when he had Sarel Erwee caught by a brilliant catch in the gully from Cameron Green for three.

After Nathan Lyon trapped Bavuma lbw, Scott Boland continued his incredible start to Test cricket with two wickets in an over. Boland got Verreynne caught at second slip for a duck, before bowling Marco Jansen two balls later.

Cummins then cleaned up the Proteas tail to claim a five-wicket haul, finishing with figures of 5-42 from 12.4 overs. Only a fighting knock from Khaya Zondo (36 not out) forced Australia to bat again and saved South Africa the ignominy of an innings defeat.

with AAP

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