independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Cricket: Pietersen forced to fight on 'toughest Test wicket'

Kevin Pietersen described the Nagpur pitch as the toughest he has batted on in his Test career as England crawled to 199-5, their lowest first-day total for 12 years.

There were enough dot balls to fill 80 overs as India bowled accurately and the batsmen struggled to time the ball at any stage during the day.

"It is the toughest wicket I have played Test cricket on in terms of trying to play strokes," Pietersen said. "We have done okay but what the wicket is going to do from now on I haven't got a clue because it looks pretty similar to when we started the day. The key was to try and bat for as long as possible because I don't think that wicket is getting any better."

In this era of Twenty20 and IPL, this pitch harked back to a time when teams made 100 runs in a day in the subcontinent playing on matted wickets.

Pietersen (right) made a battling 73 but joked that it was a turn-off for television viewers, whose subscriptions keep afloat the broadcasters who pay the Board of Control for Cricket in India millions of dollars a year in rights fees.

Pitch preparation has dominated the series since Indian captain Dhoni demanded the rank turner that he believes suits his attack and will expose England's weaknesses.

However, under pressure, the ground staff have gone too far the other way and left many perplexed and, with India likely to bat last against England spin twins Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar, it may affect their chances of levelling the series.

Elsewhere, Irish Senior Cup holders The Hills will start their defence next year at home to Instonians in the tie of the first round. The Belfast side won the NCU Challenge Cup last year and also finished second in the league.

But, generally, it a favourable draw for the Leinster clubs in the premier knock-out competition, sponsored for the first time by RSA, with league champions Leinster at home to North Down, who have a terrible record in Dublin, while North County will host Brigade and Pembroke also have an attractive home game, against Limavady.

The winners of the preliminary-round game between Rush and Terenure will be away to North West double winners Donemana while Merrion, last year's beaten finalists must travel to Coleraine.

In the RSA National Cup, there is a repeat of last year's final in the first round, with holders Muckamore hosting Balbriggan.

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