Ricky Ponting has lashed the Sydney Showground wicket as “substandard” for the Big Bash and questioned if the Thunder should consider abandoning the stadium for Canberra after a low-scoring loss to Perth.
The Scorchers returned to the BBL’s top two with the seven-wicket win on Monday night, chasing down the Thunder’s 8-137 with five balls to spare.
WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Ponting blasts Big Bash pitch.
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The result leaves the Thunder needing results to fall in their favour to reach the finals, sitting in seventh on the ladder with three games to play.
But the major talking point remained the pitch, after Ashton Agar took 2-6 from four overs and Cooper Connolly 3-25 from his four. Thunder spinner Tanveer Sangha also went for 14 from his four overs, and Chris Green 1-22 from 3.1.
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Data from the Channel 7 broadcast showed an average spin of 3.9 degrees in the Scorchers’ bowling innings, well in excess of the 2.2-degree average across the BBL.
“We shouldn’t be seeing balls react like that in the BBL. That’s unplayable, you can’t hit that,” Ponting said in commentary.
“As far as I am concerned, this is substandard as far as BBL wickets are concerned. Yes, he has bowled beautifully, but you shouldn’t be able to turn the ball like that.”
Ponting believes the pitch is bad enough that the Thunder should consider moving to Canberra. Credit: DARREN ENGLAND/AAPIMAGE
Scorchers wicketkeeper Sam Whiteman also remarked it “looked like Chennai”, with Agar’s figures the second-most economical in BBL history.
The pitch is quickly becoming a problem for Cricket Australia, given the league is viewed as a gateway to the sport for youngsters.
In one of the most populated and culturally-diverse regions of Australia, the run-rate of 7.76 at the showground throughout the competition’s history is lower than at any other major BBL stadium.
Only one score has been made over 160 in the past two seasons, with spin and off-pace deliveries generally dominating.
So slow did things move in the Thunder innings, the hosts scored only 19 runs in a six-over period late in the innings in front of a crowd of 8672.
Ponting even went as far as to question if the Thunder should move to Canberra permanently given the state of the wicket, with the club already playing two games a season at Manuka Oval.
“The Sydney Thunder have been a struggling team for the last few years,” Ponting said.
“And how are you going to attract young players from around the team or overseas, if they’re going to be batting on a wicket like that?
“The Thunder for years have talked about how much they love playing in Canberra, maybe that’s a solution.
“They have some good young players in this squad, but they might not have them forever if the wicket continues to be this way.”
Ashton Agar starred for the Scorchers on the spin-friendly pitch. Credit: DAN HIMBRECHTS/AAPIMAGE
Agar defended the ground staff after play.
“I don’t envy the groundsman, with conditions that were dished up. It poured down rain all day,” he said.
“Obviously the Big Bash is an entertaining game, and you want to see high scores and balls flying over the fence.
“But there’s a lot to be learned from games like that. Things to be learned for guys who go overseas.”
Alex Hales played a lone hand for the Thunder, whacking three sixes over the legside in his 72 from 55 balls.
But he was also close to the biggest villain in the Thunder’s innings, with three men run out at the other end.
In reply, Englishman Zak Crawley hit 58 from 56 balls to help steer the Scorchers home.