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'Looked like Chennai': Ponting blasts 'substandard' pitch as rank turner helps Agar to ridiculous figures

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8th January, 2024
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Ricky Ponting has lashed the Sydney Showground wicket as “substandard” and questioned if the Thunder should consider abandoning the stadium for Canberra after a low-scoring loss to Perth.

The Scorchers returned to the BBL’s top two with the seven-wicket win on Monday night, chasing down the Thunder’s 8-137 with five balls to spare.

The result leaves the Thunder needing results to fall in their favour to reach the finals, sitting in seventh on the ladder with three games to play.

But the major talking point remained the pitch, after Ashton Agar took 2-6 from four overs and Cooper Connolly 3-25 from his four.

Thunder spinner Tanveer Sangha also went for 14 from his four overs, and Chris Green 1-22 from 3.1.

Data from the Seven network showed an average spin of 3.9 degrees in the Scorchers’ bowling innings, well in excess of the 2.2-degree average across the BBL.

“We shouldn’t be seeing balls react like that in the BBL,” Ponting said in commentary. 


“That’s unplayable, you can’t hit that.

“As far as I am concerned, this is substandard as far as BBL wickets are concerned. 

“Yes, he has bowled beautifully, but you shouldn’t be able to turn the ball like that.”

Scorchers opener Sam Whiteman also remarked it “looked like Chennai” on Fox Cricket, with Agar’s figures the second-most economical in BBL history behind former Scorcher Mitchell Johnson’s remarkable 4/3 in the BBL06 semi-final against the Melbourne Stars.

The pitch is quickly becoming a problem for Cricket Australia, given the league is viewed as a gateway to the sport for youngsters.

In one of the most populated regions of Australia, the run-rate of 7.76 at the Showground is lower than at any other major BBL stadium.


Only one score has been made over 160 in the past two seasons, where spin and off-pace deliveries have generally dominated.

So slow did things move in the Thunder innings, the hosts scored only 19 runs in a six-over period late in the innings in front of a crowd of 8672.

Ponting even went as far as to question if the Thunder should move to Canberra permanently given the state of the wicket, with the club already playing two games a season at Manuka Oval.

“The Sydney Thunder have been a struggling team for the last few years,” Ponting said.

“And how are you going to attract young players from around the team or overseas, if they’re going to be batting on a wicket like that?

“The Thunder for years have talked about how much they love playing in Canberra, maybe that’s a solution.


“They have some good young players in this squad, but they might not have them forever if the wicket continues to be this way.”

Alex Hales played a lone hand for the Thunder, whacking three sixes over the legside in his 72 from 55 balls.

But he was also close to the biggest villain in the Thunder’s innings, with three men run out at the other end.

Included in those was Test hopeful Cameron Bancroft, who hit a red-ball-like innings of 12 off 19 balls.

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In reply, Englishman Zak Crawley hit 58 from 56 balls to steer the Scorchers home.


Upon hearing Ponting’s criticisms, Thunder captain Chris Green rejected any suggestion the Thunder should pick up and leave the Showground for the national capital.

“We’re the Sydney Thunder, this is where we like to play. This is our home ground. This is where we’re from, the west of Sydney,” Green said.

“I’d hate to see us move down (to Canberra) permanently. I like staying at home, playing at home, having my family come and watch me play.

“This is our home base.”

Green also shot down any suggestion the Showground pitch had been a long-term issue, joking he would love to take the wicket everywhere he goes as a spinner.

“This is better than a lot of wickets in the country. It’s just about adapting to those conditions better,” Green said on Monday.

“We had a 200-game here last year (in the finals) and the rain ruined it. The Sixers game this year was a sellout, and the rain ruined it.


“If we scored 10 more runs or about five less wides tonight, it’s probably going down to the last ball which is an entertaining fixture.

“So I disagree with those comments.

“We can’t just roll out a belter of a wicket and have 220 plays 220, because that tests one side of skill – but this is another side of skill.”