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Spin, Bounce, Swing: How pitches make a huge difference

Modified 22 Nov 2012

With a lot of test matches going on around the world, we hear a lot of talk about pitches. Some are deemed to be fast and bouncy, some rank turners and some so green that you can happily allow a herd of cows to graze on it. So let us see about the different types of pitches which we find around the world.

Slow Pitches (traditional Indian pitches):

Subcontinental pitches tend to assist spinners

When the difference between the speeds of the ball immediately after its release from the bowler’s hand and after it pitches is more than 20 Kmph, the pitch is regarded as slow. This usually is checked for short or good length deliveries. If the difference turns out to be more than 25Kmph, then the pitch is called a ‘dead pitch.’

On slow pitches, as the difference between the two speeds is much higher, it is easy for the batsman to score runs off the short length deliveries, hence it is tough for the bowlers to bowl shorter length deliveries effectively. This is the reason why touring Australian and England pace bowlers always struggle on subcontinental tracks. Where as on dead pitches, it’s a totally different ball game, as the ball wont pitch the way the batsmen expect. The ball keeps low and it is very tough to time the ball. So to play well, one has to play late after the ball has pitched.  The bowlers generally tend to ball full-pitched deliveries rather than short balls.

Fast Pitches (Pitches in Australia):

Fast bowlers like Bret Lee can cause havoc Down Under

Fast pitches are defined as the pitches on which if a bowler pitches the ball at a short length or good length, then if the difference between the releasing speed of the ball and the speed at which the ball strikes the bat is less than 20kmph .These kind of pitches are called good pitches.

If the difference in the speed is 15kmph then that pitch is called as a deadly fast pitch.

When the difference between the speeds of the ball immediately after its release from the bowler’s hand and after it pitches is less than 20 Kmph, the pitch is regarded as fast. If the difference is around 15kmph then its surface is popularly known as a ‘skating rink.’


On fast pitches, as the difference between the two speeds is less, the bounce will be high and it will be tough for the batsmen to play the shots early in the innings. Generally most Australian pitches are fast and offer good, consistent bounce. The WACA pitch at Perth is reckoned as the fastest in the world. Most of the times, almost every shot played on the pitch will be on the back foot. As the bounce on this pitches is good, batsman can play expecting the bounce and generally there will never be uneven bounce. So it may be difficult for a batsman to start the innings, but once the batsman gets set then he can start timing the ball well.

Generally the nature of the pitches depends on the soil and the climatic conditions of the place. Higher the clay content in the ground, higher the bounce the bowler gets. On all of the subcontinent tracks the content of clay is very less, except in a few pitches like Mohali, and so the bounce on the pitch is very low. Also due to high temperatures, the moisture content in the pitch reduces and as it gets hotter during the day, the pitch starts to tear. Subsequently, cracks start appearing which the spinners usually exploit to get uneven bounce and turn.


 The pitches in Australia have high clay content and that is the reason their pitches don’t tear and form cracks and the ball bounces quite a bit. At places like Sydney and Melbourne, where the weather is generally hot, the clay content in the pitch helps to hold the moisture and prevents the pitch from cracking up. In this part of the world, the batsman tend to believe the bounce as there is no uneven bounce and that is the reason why players from these regions tend to struggle in the subcontinent and get bowled due to the uneven bounce.

Seaming pitches(English pitches):

James Anderson is near-unplayable in English conditions

Swing has nothing to do with the type of the pitches as the swing of the ball is due to air pressure not the pitch conditions. The conditions that assist swing bowling are the shine of the ball and the moisture content in the air. English pitches are the ones that assist swing more due to the climatic conditions and as the breeze keeps striking the ball, it won’t lose its shine early. So at places where the temperature is higher , bowlers struggle to extract movement after the ball loses its shine. But as the ball gets older, it starts swinging in the opposite way. This is called reverse swing. The art of reverse swing isn’t an easy skill to acquire and it is most effective at speeds around 80mph. This the reason we see fast bowlers bowling with the old ball.

Published 22 Nov 2012, 15:43 IST
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