ICC hands down official verdict after 'embarrassing' Gabba Test farce

The International Cricket Council has delivered its verdict after backlash over the pitch for the first Test against South Africa.

Australia and South Africa, pictured here at the Gabba in a Test that lasted less than two days.
Australia beat South Africa at the Gabba in a Test that lasted less than two days. Image: Getty

The International Cricket Council has handed down its verdict on the Gabba pitch, giving it a rating of 'below average' after the first Test. The clash between Australia and South Africa was over in less than two days - just the second time that has occurred in Australia in Test cricket history.

And while the pitch has managed to avoid the dreaded 'poor' rating, the ICC has dubbed it 'below average'. It means the Gabba has now been hit with one demerit point by the game's governing body.

The demerit point will stay on the Gabba's official record for the next five years. If a ground receives five demerit points it risks being stripped of the right to host international matches.

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Match referee Richie Richardson said the pitch, which produced way more seam movement than expected due to the grass that was left on the surface, did not facilitate "an even contest between bat and ball."

"Overall, the Gabba pitch for this Test match was too much in favour 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."

The 'below average' rating isn't as bad as curators were fearing, with some experts suggesting the pitch could be slapped with a 'poor' rating like the MCG was in 2017. The pitch for the Boxing Day Test that year was slammed following a dour draw in which only 24 wickets fell over five days of play.

Controversy erupts over Gabba pitch

Speaking after the match, South Africa captain Dean Elgar was highly critical of the pitch and revealed he quizzed umpires about whether it was safe to keep playing. He said: "You've got to ask yourself the question: Is that a good advertisement for our format? Thirty-four wickets in two days. A pretty one-sided affair I would say.

"I am a purist of this format and we want to see the game go four or five days. The way it started to play with some seriously steep bounce with an old ball ... you are on a hiding to none as a batting unit.

"I don't think it was a very good Test wicket. I did ask the umpires when KG (Kagiso Rabada) got (Travis) Head out down leg. I said, 'How long does it go on for until it potentially is unsafe?' Nortje was bowling those short ones that were flying over our heads.

"I know the game was dead and buried. It was never to try and change (the result) or to put a halt to the game."

The green pitch at the Gabba, pictured here during the first Test between Australia and South Africa.
The green pitch at the Gabba has been deemed 'below average' by the ICC. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Aussie captain Pat Cummins disagreed, saying his counterpart would have been trying anything to prevent South Africa's crushing defeat. Australia won by six wickets after bowling the Proteas out for just 99 in their second innings.

"If you're going to lose the match, you'd probably try anything, wouldn't you?" Cummins said. "It was fine. There was some sideways movement, a little bit of up and down bounce but ... there's no balls jumping off a length or anything like that."

"Two days probably isn't ideal. A lot of sideways movement and today a little bit of up and down bounce as well. Personally, I kind of don't mind when the groundsman errs on the greener side occasionally.

"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. No way (was it dangerous), it was fine."

Australia assistant coach Daniel Vettori said on Tuesday for "occasional Test matches it is not the worst thing". He added: "I think I have seen worse. It was just really tough conditions and once in a while as a bowling group you don't mind that."

Despite the 'below average' rating, some fans were left fuming that the ICC didn't deem the pitch 'poor'. Fans and commentators around the world labelled the surface 'embarrassing' and 'atrocious', while Aussie legend Ricky Ponting even admitted he wouldn't have been surprised if it was rated 'poor'.

with AAP

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