Hampshire captain Dimitri Mascarenhas has criticised the pitch at SuperSport Park in Centurion, calling it "no good for 20-over cricket" after his team was knocked out of the Champions League qualifiers having played only one match. Hampshire posted 121 on a surface with inconsistent bounce that did not allow the ball to carry through quickly, and Auckland reached the target with 33 deliveries to spare.
"When we saw the pitch yesterday, we thought there was no way we could play on the wicket," Mascarenhas said. "We knew that whoever won the toss would win the game. I heard there was a chance the match would be moved to the Wanderers but obviously that didn't happen." There has been no confirmation that a request was put in to change the venue and the second match continued as scheduled in Centurion.
When the Hampshire team saw the pitch on Monday it was being watered, which groundsman Hilbert Smit said was "standard practice." He admitted he may have "misread the weather," when he watered the pitch during last week's heat wave in anticipation of no rain early this week. Instead, 38 millimetres fell on Monday in the summer's first storms, and the water table rose substantially.
"Because of that [the rain] we knew the pitch would be slow and a few deliveries would hold back. But one team still scored at more than eight runs to the over and there is nothing wrong with that," Smit said, referring to Auckland's chase.
Mascarenhas said the pitch had eased after the heavy roller was used in the innings break and it "definitely got better" to bat on. He thought his team had lost the match because of the batting performance. "Not many teams defend scores of around 120. When you are, you're desperate for wickets and in doing that, you will give a few away."
Rather than a low-scoring game, Mascarenhas would have preferred a strip with runs in it. "In 20-over cricket, you want a flat wicket and you want to see runs on the board. You don't want the ball to be dominating the whole time," he said. "I am a bowler and even I don't want the ball to dominate."
Auckland captain Gareth Hopkins was less scathing about the surface. "The toss did play a little part in it and it was easier to bat on second, but I don't think it was too tricky up front," he said. "It was a little bit slower than the pitch we had last night at the Wanderers and one or two balls did something funny."
Hopkins was the happier of the two captains not just because his team won but because Auckland have now qualified for the main draw. Their victories in both group matches mean they will progress irrespective of the result between Hampshire and Sialkot tomorrow.
Hampshire were gutted not only to be out of the competition in the space of a day but because, as Mascarenhas said, "The most disappointing thing is that it was all in the toss, it was decided on that."