Rawalpindi: Pakistan’s pitches belonged in “the dark ages”, the country’s top cricket official said on Friday, after England plundered runs on a lifeless wicket in Rawalpindi.
The visitors were finally all out for 657 - including a record 506 from the first day Thursday - with four batsmen scoring centuries off the hapless Pakistan bowling.
In reply, Pakistan’s openers were nearing centuries of their own at close of play Friday with Abdullah Shafique on 89 and Imam-ul-Haq 90.
Ramiz Raja, a former national captain and now Pakistan Cricket Board chief, said he was “not happy at all” over the state of the pitch, which he admitted was “not a great advert” for Test cricket.
“We live in the dark ages of pitches in Pakistan,” he told reporters, adding, “it’s embarrassing for us, especially if you have a cricketer as chairman.”
On the same pitch in March this year, some 1,187 runs were scored for the loss of just 14 wickets as Pakistan and Australia played out a tame draw.
Rawalpindi was termed “below average” by International Cricket Council match referee Ranjan Madugalle, who also awarded it a demerit point.
A venue is banned for 12 months if it accumulates five demerit points over a period of five years.
Pakistan has played little Test cricket at home for over a decade as security issues forced fixtures to neutral grounds abroad.
After the criticism earlier this year, Raja brought in Australian specialist Damien Hough, who suggested removable drop-in pitches as a solution.
“I think our way out is for drop-in pitches,” Raja said. “If you want to nail England, for example, we’ve got to prepare a drop-in pitch that turns from ball No 1.
“It is better than having this hodge-podge where you get a half-baked pitch, which is neither quick nor spin.”
Still, despite the placid surface, Raja credited England with making the most of the conditions.
“I’ve never seen batting like England’s on day one,” he said.”
At close on day two, Imam-ul-Haq (90) and Abdullah Shafique (89) were approaching hundreds when umpires called stumps with 17 overs remaining. The home team still need 277 runs to avoid the follow-on.
The pitch was again unresponsive to bowlers as the England attack, led by James Anderson, toiled in the same manner as the home side.
Earlier, resuming at 506-4, England added 151 runs in 125 minutes, with Harry Brook taking his overnight score of 101 to 153 — one of four centurions in the innings.
Leg-spinner Zahid Mahmood conceded 235 for his four wickets - the most by a bowler on a Test debut.
Previously, Sri Lankan off-spinner Suraj Randiv conceded 222 against India in Colombo in 2010.
England’s total is their highest against Pakistan in all Tests, improving on their 589-9 at Manchester in 2016.
On Thursday England became the first team to score 500 runs on the opening day of a Test match, bettering Australia’s 112-year-old record of 494-6 against South Africa in Sydney.
Zak Crawley (122), Ollie Pope (108) and Ben Duckett (107) were the other centurions in the innings.