Ashes 2015: 'Terrible' & 'poor' - what's wrong with Cardiff pitch?

By Saj ChowdhuryBBC Sport
Cardiff pitch and Mitchell Johnson
Sluggish? The Cardiff pitch for the first Test between England and Australia

"Terrible Test pitch from what I've seen so far," tweeted Surrey and England bowler Chris Tremlett.external-link

"Will say now... this is a very, very poor cricket pitch," added former England captain Michael Vaughan.external-link

Hopefully Swalec Stadium groundsman Keith Extonexternal-link was not following social media as the first Ashes Test between England and Australia got under way on Wednesday.

Exton said before the game: "It's natural to be nervous and excited at the same time but watch me after three overs - I'll either be beaming with delight or hiding."

Well the pitch he prepared has been criticised for its lack of pace, with Australia bowlers seeing some deliveries struggle to carry through to the wicketkeeper.

"From the hand, Mitchell Starc and Mitchell Johnson have been touching 90mph, but when it hits the pitch it is like a pricked balloon, it is going nowhere," said Test Match Special commentator Jim Maxwell.

Colleague Geoffrey Boycott - never a wallflower when it comes to expressing his opinion - added: "It's bottom of the Test grounds we have - it doesn't give anything for anybody."

The reaction was reminiscent to the negativity over the "unresponsive" Trent Bridge pitch that hosted the first Test against India last year.

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So what distinguishes a poor Test pitch from a good one?

Former England bowler Derek Pringle, now a journalist, told BBC Sport: "Ideally, you want something in it for the fast bowlers for the first two days. Then perhaps the pitch should wear and help the spinners later in the game, break a little, crumble and offer indifferent bounce and turn.

"On the first day in Cardiff the ball should be carrying through to the keeper. Starc and Johnson are two of fastest bowlers in the world and the ball is struggling to carry. The pitch can't be amended overnight.

"I don't recall the pitch at Cardiff ever being quick. The block the pitches are made of can't be rolled and dried into a hard or fast surface. Traditionally in England we don't produce quick pitches, but we do have ones that carry, like Lord's and the Oval.

"As for the groundsmen who prepare Test pitches - they are pulled in two directions. The chief executive of the club they work for wants the Test to go five days and get receipts from those days. Then, on the other hand, the England captain will want a groundsman that will prepare a pitch to help him and his players."

BBC Sport contacted the other four Ashes Test venues - Lord's, Edgbaston, Trent Bridge and the Oval - in an attempt to speak to their groundsmen. Three said their groundsman would be unavailable, while one is yet to respond.