Batsmen across the globe would have shuddered upon witnessing the pitch in Hamilton on Thursday morning, and understandably so — it looks more suited for Wimbledon.
New Zealand’s home summer of cricket has kicked off with a two-Test series against the West Indies.
The Black Caps have not played Test cricket since their 2-0 whitewash of India in February, the coronavirus lockdown putting a halt to tours over the winter months.
But even before the first ball in Hamilton, the cricket world had turned its attention towards Seddon Park’s bizarre pitch.
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After a lengthy rain delay on Thursday morning, curators peeled back the covers to unveil what can only be described as a bowler’s paradise.
The green deck was barely distinguishable from the rest of the field, a thick layer of grass covering the playing surface.
Combined with the cloudy weather in Hamilton, it was a nightmarish day one wicket, and both sides were understandably eager to win the toss and bowl first on a surface that looked certain to provide seamers with plenty of assistance.
“There should be a home advantage. If we go to the subcontinent we don’t expect to see a wicket like this,” Spark Sport commentator Frankie McKay said.
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“Any time you are touring you do expect as the touring side to be slightly on the back foot or have conditions that are slightly foreign to you.
“But I think if you talk to the groundsman here he just loves to have a good grass cover on the wicket.
“I think it puts the fear up a few batsmen but also it just means it keeps its pace.
“He’ll say it’s a good wicket and the batsmen should be fine but the bowlers will be licking their lips.”
NZ Herald journalist Dylan Cleaver wrote the sight of so much grass on the wicket “might cause a few West Indies batsman to bring up a little bit of their breakfast”.
New Zealand is renowned for its bowler-friendly decks, but the Seddon Park pitch was next level and images of the wicket quickly went viral on social media.
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To nobody’s surprise, West Indies captain Jason Holder quickly opted to field first after winning the toss, optimistic his bowling attack would flourish in the overcast conditions.
New Zealand debutant Will Young was tasked with opening the batting in arguably the most challenging situations fathomable for a maiden Test innings.
Thankfully, the 28-year-old was granted a life in the fourth over, his edge off Shannon Gabriel’s peach flying between the wicketkeeper and first slip.
But in a cruel twist of fate, Young was trapped plumb LBW the very next delivery, and made his way back to the pavilion for five.
Those subsequent deliveries summed up why batsmen struggle on green decks — Gabriel’s first delivery seamed away and jumped off the pitch, while the second kept low and skidded into the pads.
New Zealand were 1/55 after 21 overs, with skipper Kane Williamson not out on 25.