Spin, Seam, Swing, Fast, Slow… no two wickets are ever the same. But what makes some pitches good for batting and what makes bowlers rub their hands with glee?

We’re only talking about the condition of the wicket too. There are plenty of other factors that contribute to the ease or difficulty of play. Weather conditions and the state of the ball – for example, if it’s new, or shiny on one side, etc.

Keeping it very simple, here’s the key factors of how and why a cricket pitch behaves the way it does. Perhaps your groundsmen can prepare the wicket to suit your side’s strengths.

A Fast Bowler’s Paradise.

Hard cricket pitches – such as the WACA in Australia – help the ball to fly off the surface at pace and with good bounce. Some pitches with a tint of green in them can also be quick as they tend to see the new ball skid off the surface.

Can the Pitch Influence Seam and Swing?

Absolutely. Cricket pitches with more grass on them can assist swing and seam bowling by causing the ball to behave more erratically. It’s not just the extra grass that does this, but the moisture in the pitch.

What creates a spinning wicket?

Pitches typically spin when they’ve become worn and dusty, so the slow bowlers tend to have an increasing role to play as the game progresses. A dry, worn pitch will develop cracks and bowler foot-holes that the spin bowler can pitch the ball into. However, the ball will also spin on a pitch that originally has moisture in it and then starts to dry out.

Dry cricket pitch

Why is this even important? Here’s why …

Captains and coaches can select their team based on what the wicket is telling them. And the big question for any cricket captain who wins the toss is: Shall we bat first or bowl first? Over a 5-day test match, assessing the wicket at the outset can be fraught with peril. Their decision will also be influenced by the weather conditions. But, as a very basic rule of thumb, here’s what generally happens:

Dry conditions and dry wicket = bat first. It also means they get to bowl last on a potentially spinning wicket.

Overcast conditions and a pitch with some green and moisture in it = bowl first to get the most out of favourable conditions.

Reading a cricket pitch isn’t an exact science. In fact, plenty of National team captains have read them completely wrong at the toss. But with a base guideline as to how a pitch may play, you can base your decisions on these – or at least use it as an excuse in the bar afterwards.