Cricket Pitch Conditions

It's hard to overestimate just how vital understanding cricket pitch conditions is for bettors who are determined to win money on cricket.

Like tennis and horse racing, the surface is critical in unlocking winners and making accurate cricket match predictions.

In this article, we will run through the most common pitch conditions you are likely to find and add some betting angles for you to think over.

And we should make it clear, when we refer to the pitch, we mean the 22-yard wicket where the batsman and bowler do battle. It's this small stretch of land where the destiny of the match is usually decided!

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Type of cricket pitch

Green Pitches

Sometimes referred to as 'graveyards' for batsmen, these wickets have a thin layer of grass. They will be less hard than other pitches, and the surface is less even.

Batsmen cannot reliably judge the movement of the ball when it pitches. Like on damp or wet pitches, bowlers can extract more bounce and more action.

Swing and seam movement really comes into play here with the ball sliding off the surface, and it's not uncommon to see fast deliveries almost 'die' when they bounce.

Because the surface is softer, the ball stays in better condition for much longer, allowing swing bowlers to enjoy more success.

The batter is under constant pressure on green pitches and will play late to give themselves the best chance of not being caught out by the bounce. Frustration builds for the batter, and you will often see rash batting attempts from inexperience or impatient players.

There are mixed results for spinners, though. Hagley Oval in New Zealand is a very green pitch but is known for having the worst average for spinners. In 2020, ESPNcricinfo put the average for spinners at a massive 59.78.

On the other hand, Lancaster Park in Christchurch - the same city as Hagley Oval - averaged 28.17 for spinners before it was closed in 2011.

In warm-up games for the 2019 World Cup in England, it was noticeable how spinners struggled at the Oval but were dominant at Southampton.

Test matches in England - especially the likes of the Oval, Trent Bridge and Lord's - Australia, and South Africa are the best places to see examples of green pitches.

Betting angles:

  • Fast, medium-fast bowlers and seamers have their ideal conditions
  • Look at previous results at the ground to see how spinners have traditionally fared - don't assume they will also flourish on green pitches as big regional differences exist
  • Matches are usually low scoring with lots of wickets falling - betting on the unders line of total runs can be profitable

Damp pitch

A damp wicket is one where moisture remains. The ball slows down after pitching and generally remains low.

Batsmen need to anticipate a lesser bounce, sudden loss of pace and skidding, meaning the ball is typically taken late. All types of bowlers can enjoy success on a damp pitch, with batsmen vulnerable to pace, swingers, seamers, and spinners.

Look out for games in England that start early in the morning or take place in rain-affected conditions.

Dew and water remain on the pitch and for the few hours at least - depending on what the temperature is - you can expect a low-scoring start to the game with batsman cautious. Top bowlers will also be in their element here.

Often IPL matches and many other cricket games are day/night matches Humidity and moisture in the evening/night air starts to get into the pitch and can have a significant effect on a game.

The team that bats first often has an advantage here - the team batting second will have to deal with the worsening conditions.

However, bear in mind that a lot of moisture also affects the bowler's grip. This can lead to a lot of no-balls and poor deliveries which batsmen can punish.

Betting angles:

  • Batsmen are vulnerable to all types of deliveries and will usually adopt a defensive style of play in the hope conditions improve - big totals are unlikely
  • Fast bowlers thrive with the ball swinging and moving in the air at random - back a fast bowler to be top wicket-taker
  • Expect low batting totals, large runs chases are difficult, and this can be a significant factor in drawn Tests

Dead Pitches

Most modern-day wickets are now dead pitches, following a general move to make cricket more batsmen-friendly.

These wickets are dark brown and extremely hard, with no green grass on them. Groundsmen will even use rollers to extract as much water as possible. These are also known as flat tracks.

Here spinners are the most effective, but the best batsmen can quickly adapt and read the pitch in the same way the spinner tries to.

Fast bowlers used to delivering short tosses that race off the ground and up into the batsman are thwarted by the lack of spring. Short bowls are therefore easily punished.

In response, they must adapt their throw to full-pitched, but it's tough to judge the length, especially at unfamiliar grounds.

It's why English and Australian pace bowlers typically struggle on tours to the subcontinent.

Dead pitches are most suitable for T20 cricket and ODIs, allowing teams to build high scores and leading to exciting matches.

Test cricket is not well-suited to dead pitches as wickets don't fall regularly enough and it results in tactical matches.

Betting angles:

  • Fast bowlers are ineffective, but don't fall into the trap of thinking spinners are much more successful - in short, concentrate on the abilities of the batsmen
  • These pitches are a paradise for the big hitters. The team with the strongest batting line-up has a huge advantage and betting on big innings is the correct approach
  • In Test matches, look out for in-play opportunities - the draw is a runner, and even average teams can frustrate far superior ones

Dry and Dusty Pitches

Like dead pitches, dusty pitches are a familiar sight in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. The surface is soft and isn't rolled, which lets the ball grip and turn.

Naturally, spinners have their ideal conditions and its one of the reasons India is known for their spin bowlers. And their reliance on this style of bowling often leaves them vulnerable when they travel as the country doesn't produce many good fast bowlers.

Dry pitches that are unrolled crack in the heat, and this gives benefit to spinners with batsmen facing extremely unpredictable bounces.

Spin bowlers are also in demand on these pitches because the batsmen must exert much more effort to score runs than if they were facing fast balls. Spinners are key in slowing down the scoring rates of big hitters.

Bear in mind, a dry pitch during the day is only going to get drier. As conditions get drier, spinners are more effective, and a batsman will find things tougher.

However, do not fall into the trap of assuming batsmen are always going to be on the back foot. Captains that win the toss will nearly always elect to bat first with conditions more favourable, so the second team batting is going to be more inconvenienced.

But even then, the best batters will soon adapt to conditions and dry pitches let them commit to shorts early as the ball comes to bat at a nice level. Dry pitches often witness high-scoring matches.

Chris Gayle and David Warner are particularly effective against spinners.

Betting angles:

  • A batsman lining up after a few hours of play will be at a disadvantage to those who batted earlier. Conditions become more favourable to spinners, and the player in the crease must read the wicket fast - oppose inexperienced batsman in the betting market
  • The team chasing down a big total can be frustrated by spinners slowing down the ball and the game - assess conditions and consider in-play bets on the unders total runs
  • But don't get caught up in thinking that spinners are king here - at elite level cricket, batsmen adjust quickly, and spinners bowl at a slow pace meaning the best hitters do still score heavily