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We Need to Talk About THAT New York Pitch!

Drop in pitch from Adelaide or a test day 5 pitch from Jamaica? So far this World Cup, we’ve talked more about the pitches than the actual cricket played on them. We all have the IPL to blame for spoiling us with those sky-high scores, making us think that’s all T20 is about now.

But that New York pitch? Tricky, to say the least. Or as Faf du Plessis put it, “spicy.” Test match purists might’ve loved that recent Sri Lanka vs. South Africa game, but it probably wasn’t the ideal intro to cricket for American audiences.

Yesterday’s game at New York’s Nassau County International Stadium saw Sri Lanka crawl to a measly 77 runs in their 20 overs – a score TraviShek would rack up in the first 4 overs of an IPL match. And in case you’re thinking Sri Lanka might just not be it, a South African lineup packed with the likes of De Kock, Klaasen, and Miller only managed to chase it down in 16.2 overs.

The pitch was a two-paced nightmare and the outfield? Miserably slow. Uneven bounce made batting tough, but even when a shot connected, the sand-based outfield sucked the life out of it, leaving batters frustrated.

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If anything, this game makes India’s 182 against Bangladesh in the warmup game on the same pitch look even more impressive. Bangladesh could only muster 122 in response, and that was with nine batters in their lineup.

Now, the elephant in the room: What happens when Pakistan faces India at this same venue in five days? Given how Nortje (4-7) and Baartman (1-9) fared here, and with 19 out of 28 wickets in the last two games falling to fast bowlers (including warm-ups), the Pakistani camp must be rubbing their hands in anticipation.

Their pacers, particularly Haris Rauf and Mohammad Amir, excel at the slower balls and change-ups that have been deadly on this pitch. This might be the perfect opportunity for Pakistan to unleash four frontline pacers. Given Abbas Afridi’s recent form and his bag of tricks, including a deceptive slower ball, I’d gamble on him over a struggling Naseem Shah (sorry guys).

India, on the other hand, might have brought four spinners, but Bumrah will be a nightmare on this surface, backed up by Shivam Dube’s medium pace (who bagged two wickets against Bangladesh here). I wouldn’t expect a double-digit scoreboard given the batting talent on both sides, guys who are well-versed in low-bounce South Asian wickets. But technically sound anchors (you thought they were dead didn’t you?) like Babar Azam and Virat Kohli will be crucial in taking the game deep.

India vs. Pakistan in a T20 World Cup is the perfect taste of top-level cricket that American viewers deserve, but that pitch has sprung up clouds of uncertainty over it. All we can do is cross our fingers and hope for a more batting-friendly surface by the time India and Pakistan face off on Sunday. But given the nature of the rivalry, even a bad pitch and awful outfield might not be enough to take the thrill out of it.

Trying to combine my love for Sports and Numbers.

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