County Championship Division 1

County controversy over 'dreadful' pitch

England selector accuses Somerset of intentionally producing 'disgraceful' pitch for crucial Championship clash

Cricket Network

30 September 2017, 04:41 PM AEST

The fallout from Middlesex's relegation-sealing final-round defeat has continued, with the club's director of cricket Angus Fraser accusing opponents Somerset of pitch doctoring.

In their last match of the County Championship season against fellow Division One strugglers Somerset, Middlesex suffered a 231-run defeat at Taunton with spinners claiming 31 of the 39 wickets to fall.

The result saw Somerset finish sixth on 147 points, just one point clear of Middlesex on 146, meaning Middlesex were relegated just one season after lifting the silverware.

The England and Wales Cricket Board have confirmed they've launched an investigation into the Taunton pitch, which Somerset's three-pronged spin attack used to their advantage in collecting 16 scalps between them.

Fraser, who is also a part-time England selector, labelled the pitch "dreadful" and suggested Somerset intentionally produced a sub-standard wicket.

"It's disgraceful what they did," the 46-Test former England fast bowler told the Evening Standard.

"I've never seen such a doctored pitch.

"The intent was there, so the combination of a below average pitch and intent, that changes things. There are guidelines for counties to produce the best possible pitch for matches."

Speaking to the BBC, Fraser added: "It was a dreadful pitch.

"In 35 years of cricket I haven't seen many things like that."

Somerset have played down the impact of the pitch on the result of the match, with batsman James Hildreth – whose second-innings 109 was the only century for the match – insisting the track was far from a minefield.

"If you apply yourself there are runs to be scored on this pitch," Hildreth said at stumps on day two.

"Going into a game with a mindset that 'this is a poor wicket' is not a great approach. It is a great test for the batsmen."

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Jack Leach, Somerset's left-arm spinner who took nine wickets for the match, added: "We've played on wickets that have spun more, and I never know what it's going to do here. As a group we bowled really well and outplayed them."

Former Australia batsman Adam Voges, Middlesex's stand-in captain for the match, said he'd spoken to match officials after noticing "rake marks" on the pitch.

'There needs to be a line which teams can't cross' // Getty
'There needs to be a line which teams can't cross' // Getty

"We came here knowing we would face a pitch that helped Somerset's spinners because every team in the world prepares wickets to aid their strengths, but there needs to be a line which teams can't cross," Voges said.

"Whether Somerset have crossed that line for this match is for the match referee to decide. I have certainly let him know my thoughts.

"What we didn't expect was rake marks at both ends that were encroaching into danger areas on what was already a worn pitch. That was a surprise."

Taunton groundsman Simon Lee (l) chats with umpire Alex Wharf (c) and the ECB's Wayne Noon (r) // Getty
Taunton groundsman Simon Lee (l), umpire Alex Wharf (c) and the ECB's Wayne Noon (r) // Getty

Fraser also lamented a two-point penalty for a slow over-rate imposed on Middlesex during their match against Surrey at The Oval that was abandoned when a deadly arrow was fired onto the field of play.

"The pitch and the points deduction, I know they look like excuses but these are reasons for our relegation, even though we haven't played well enough," he said.

"The police abandoned that match and we were told, 'Don't worry, you won't lose your points', but then we found out we had.

"We've since made representations (to the ECB) against that (decision)."