Lancashire have accused Somerset of producing a pitch that was “below average verging on poor” after 22 wickets fell on the first day of their Championship match at Taunton.
Questions about the quality of the surface could leave Somerset open to a points penalty, as it is less than 12 months since they were reprimanded by the ECB for producing a “below average” pitch for their final game of the 2017 season. With Somerset second in Division One and attempting to keep pace with leaders Surrey, any deduction would likely have an impact on the title race.
The result at Taunton could also have repercussions at the other end of the table. Lancashire went into the match in fifth, but only nine points ahead of bottom-placed Worcestershire, having played a game more.
Although Paul Allott, Lancashire’s director of cricket, admitted that there had been “indifferent batting” on both sides, he referred directly to ECB regulations when interviewed on BBC Radio Lancashire. Having asked for and won a toss, Lancashire chose to bat only to be dismissed for 99, left-arm spinner Jack Leach taking 5 for 28; Somerset were then bowled out for 192, and Lancashire lost two more wickets before the close, both to Leach.
“It’s the beginning of day two, so the game is still fully in progress,” Allott said. “And I’d just like to start by quoting the ECB pitch regulations.
“The precursor to these is quite clear, it says for the purpose of maintaining the highest standard of pitches in all matches, the relevant provision is the following: ‘Each county shall actively seek to prepare the best quality cricket pitch that it can for the match that it is staging.’ And I firmly believe that that is not the best possible pitch that could have been prepared for this game
“It’s disappointing because obviously the situation for both teams is an intriguing one, it’s hugely important for Somerset and for Lancashire. Somerset looking to put pressure on the leaders and try and win the County Championship and Lancashire obviously in a dogfight to avoid relegation.
“I will say that yesterday even though 22 wickets fell there was some indifferent batting and that Somerset overall edged us in performance. But to be perfectly honest that pitch is below average verging on poor in my view. It looks like a fifth day Test match pitch, it’s worn, it’s pitted and there are some areas in it that are hugely conducive for spin bowling.”
After the first day, Jason Kerr, Somerset’s head coach, said he was not worried about a pitch penalty and suggested many of the wickets had gone down as a result of “very bad cricket”. He added: “I have not spoken to the Cricket Liaison Officer and probably won’t do so until the end of the game, but I don’t foresee a problem.”
Any decision about the state of the pitch will rest with Dean Cosker, the former Glamorgan spinner who is the CLO present at Taunton, after discussion with the standing umpires, Paul Baldwin and Jeremy Lloyds.
However, the threat of a penalty hangs over Somerset, after they were marked down for the pitch provided for their match against Middlesex last year – a relegation decider in which Somerset’s 231-run victory helped preserve Division One status by a single point.
“I’ve no issue with what Jason Kerr says, it’s not my prerogative to agree or disagree with him,” Allott said. “All I can say is that in my view that pitch is not the best that could have been prepared and it’s disappointing to come all this way down to Taunton and be confronted with those conditions in such an important game.”
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