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  • 22 April 2019
    Australias players havent the foggiest idea what sort of pitch they will be getting for the first Test of the summer. In some ways, that is how they like things to be. In others, it sums up a creep away from the sorts of conditions Australian cricketers have grown up to expect.Through tours of England in 2015 and Sri Lanka earlier this year, the men in Steven Smiths side have felt a certain sense of irritation at the pitches served up. Not so much because they have been difficult; more so because they have been prepared very much with the home side in mind. From the coach Darren Lehmann down to the possible debutant Joe Mennie, every member of this team knows that to make such requests in Australia is to expect a gob-full in response from the curator.In England there was actually a change in the sorts of pitches Alastair Cooks side wanted from match to match within the series itself. Initially the coach Trevor Bayliss and the head of cricket Andrew Strauss desired slow, dry pitches to reduce the influence of Mitchell Johnson. But when Australia dominated on a flat surface at Lords, the diktat moved to green seamers, resulting in tracks at Birmingham and Nottingham the visitors were utterly unable to cope with.Sri Lankas surfaces were a little more consistent: slow and spinning. They were of the kind made to order for the hosts, and exploited brilliantly once so prepared. In this context, Australias players yearned to get back to home, not for pitches weighted to favour them, but merely to play on surfaces not prepared with any one or two bowlers in mind.I think we prepare really good Test match pitches, theres something in there for everyone, said the spin bowler and sometime curator Nathan Lyon. We go and travel overseas and it does tend to favour one team more than the other. Our curators do a fantastic job and Im always going to stick up for them.Oddly for a team most recently defined by pace, Lyons offbreaks are actually the best measure of how much Australias players prefer playing at home. Down under, Lyon has 101 Test wickets in 26 matches at 31.97, a record superior to any spinner to visit from overseas this side of Mushtaq Ahmed. But away, in conditions ostensibly better suited to his art, Lyons 110 wickets in 31 Tests have cost 33.56 apiece.Im going back to the way Ive been bowling best in Australia for the last 18 to 24 months now, so Ill keep going down that game plan and my little blueprint I work off bowling here in Australia, Lyon said of this summer. But when we come to subcontinent conditions again Im going to have to re-evaluate and prepare for that. Im not going in the nets this afternoon and bowling in subcontinent conditions, thats for sure.Australian comfort at home does, in many ways, transcend the individual pitches themselves. As Usman Khawaja put it, the subtleties of each venue, the heat, the size of the outfields and their best scoring zones, are augmented by loud, supportive and at times merciless crowds. Australias healthy culture of Test match attendances helps too.I think its just experience, Khawaja said. Weve played at these grounds so often, thats what we lack when we go overseas a little bit, we dont have experience on these grounds while playing in the match scenario. But we play on these grounds so often, we know pretty much everything about the grounds there is to know and we can draw on those things. We know how the pitch is going to react and whats going to happen.The crowd makes a big difference too when you have the crowd behind you. When things are going well the crowd just comes over you. Im sure when were taking wickets and on a roll and the opposition batsmen are rolling in, the crowd is all over them, I think it makes a difference. They play a fair part in it too.However a world in which guaranteed days of play in Test matches are beloved of administrators and broadcasters has gradually eaten away at the fundamental advantage available to Australia: extra pace and bounce. Early finishes, however dominant by the home side, have long been deemed troubling for state associations in particular. Similarly, the introduction of drop-in pitches in Melbourne, Adelaide and soon at Perths new stadium mean further homogenisation. When the WACA Test against New Zealand last summer creaked towards the bore draw that hastened Mitchell Johnsons retirement, the ABCs doyen commentator Jim Maxwell dubbed it a CEOs pitch designed to keep the game going five days. It was on a similarly long-lasting surface that South Africa chased their epochal 414 to win in Perth in 2008 and set Ricky Pontings team on the path to their first home series defeat in more than 15 years.Likewise the pitches in 2010-11 were flat enough to allow Cook, Strauss, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell to dominate increasingly dispirited Australian bowlers. There is still a small advantage to be gained by Australia at home, but they must be at their very best to extract it.I think other countries around the world do that home advantage a lot better, Mitchell Starc said of the contrast he sees between home and away. The wickets in Australia have got a lot flatter in Shield cricket and Test cricket over the years. You just want to see that even contest. If you go back to the Adelaide [day/night] Test match, regardless of how many days it lasted, the whole Test was just an even contest between bat and ball for two and a half days, and it turned out to be the best Test match of the summer.I think thats what teams want to see and fans want to see, you dont want to see blokes just scoring runs for fun and nothing in it for the bowlers. At the same time I dont think people want to see teams bowled out for 100 in all four innings. We just want to see that even contest. And you still want to keep some characteristics of wickets around Australia.You want to see the fast, bouncy wickets of the WACA. You might want to see a turning wicket at the SCG. Its obviously not going to happen in Adelaide with the pink ball stuff - but you generally see a hard wicket at the start and it breaks up towards the end and you get a bit of reverse swing. The Gabba is obviously a fantastic wicket, where there is enough in it for both teams for five days. You dont want to lose those characteristics, but I guess the wickets have definitely got flatter over the years.If Australias home advantage is thinner than for other nations, against South Africa it narrows to the width of a sheet of paper. Australians love touring South Africa - having never lost there since reunification - and the reverse is also true.Not a single member of the South African side has experienced a Test series loss in Australia, and not a single Australian has won over the Proteas here. South Africa and Australian conditions are fairly related, Hashim Amla said, and I think thats why we have over the last two series weve had here, had some success.At Australias training session on Monday afternoon, Lehmann set the wicketkeeper and slips back to near enough a pitch-length away from the bat for a catching session. This is the traditional WACA distance, but bore no relation to what was served up last year. That rather summed up Australia at home - the national team are hopeful of conditions to suit them, but have no way of knowing for sure.We always talk about adapting to conditions, Starc said. I think [home] can help, but the way we approach our cricket is you have to change the way you play depending on what is in front of you. Regardless of what we get at the WACA, were going to be ready to go and hopefully theres enough in it for the bowlers. That would be lovely to see. Cheap Asics Shoes Nz . Jane Virtanen scored two, and Alex Roach and Elliott Peterson rounded out the offence for the Hitmen (40-15-6). Brady Brassart chipped in with three assists. Colton McCarthy scored twice, Brayden Point had a goal and two assists, and Jack Rodewald also scored for the Warriors (15-35-9), who were 2 for 5 on the power play. 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