Pitch report – Bellerive Oval

Reports & previews

We run the rule over the venue for the Test series opener between Australia and Sri Lanka in Hobart.

<b>Established:</b> 1914<br><b>Capacity:</b> 16,200<br><b>Floodlights:</b> Yes<br><b>Ends:</b> Church Street End, River End<br><b>Home Team:</b> Tasmania<br><b>Last 10 Tests:</b> 7 home wins, 1 away win, 2 draws<br><b>Last 10 tosses:</b> 6 batted first (4 wins, 1 loss, 1 draw), 4 fielded first (1 win, 2 losses, 1 draw)

<b>Overview</b><br>Situated on the eastern bank of the Derwent River, the Bellerive Oval has served as the headquarters of Tasmanian cricket since 1987 – and is also known as the Blundstone Arena these days.

The Oval has undergone two major upgrades in the past 25 years; first in the mid-1980s, which saw the construction of a new grandstand, training facilities and the laying of a new surface and wicket. The investment paid dividends, with the ground hosting its first international match in 1988, followed by its first Test match in 1989.

In the early 2000s further development occurred, with the addition of indoor training facilities, a new Southern Stand, and an upgraded Member's Area that includes media facilities. In 2009 floodlights were erected, allowing for day-night matches.

Traditionally the surface in Hobart is one that favours the batsmen, with a bit of early assistance the most the bowlers can hope for before the track becomes a flat batsman's paradise. But the wicket was relaid in August of 2012, and an uneven and erratic surface resulted in complaints from batsmen.

The colder climate in the south, together with a mysterious sea breeze, means that atmospheric conditions can have more of an effect on proceedings than at many other grounds around Australia.

The hosts have only lost here once, which is no great surprise. Not only did the ground's inception happen at a time when Australian cricket was on the rise, but they've generally only played the weaker nations in Hobart as the bigger clashes are reserved for the bigger cities.

<b>Last Time Out</b><br>The last time the Baggy Green took to the field here, they did not enjoy the experience as they lost by a narrow seven runs to Antipodean neighbours New Zealand, in December 2011.

It was a low-scoring game, with no innings going above 250, and the fast bowlers shared the majority of the spoils. New Zealand batted first and were all out for 150 within 46 overs, Doug Brownlie top-scoring with 56 and James Pattinson bagging a five-fer.

The Aussies then failed to take advantage of the collapse, themselves all out for 136 just after lunch on day two. This time, Trent Boult, Doug Bracewell and Chris Martin did the damage, taking three wickets apiece.

Pattinson again obliged with the ball in the Black Caps' second innings, adding three more wickets to his tally as the Kiwis were skittled for 226, leaving the hosts a target of 241 to chase in three days.

Bracewell then provided the heat on the fiery wicket, taking six for 40 as the Aussies fell seven runs short, all out just after lunch on day four. This was despite David Warner's 123, which accounted for more than half of his side's 233 runs.

<b>They Said</b><br>"It feels like a wicket that I've conquered probably over the last couple of years in bowler-friendly conditions. We're used to playing on pretty juicy wickets, but having seen the wicket out there at the moment it looks in pretty good nick. I think it's been a wicket that's almost accelerated the game in reverse. There are grounds around the world and around the country that deteriorate as the game goes on. This probably gets better to bat on and history suggests that." – Australia and Tasmania opener <b>Ed Cowan</b>.

"We've seen some of the games that [Australia] has played. There's been a bit of nibble about but it's been sporting to both sides. Wickets like this make fast bowlers really enthusiastic to play, and it elevates guys who don't have that much pace. If it stays the same, I think our fast bowlers will have a really good chance against the Aussie batsmen." – Sri Lanka batsman <b>Kumar Sangakkara</b>.

"I haven't heard great things about the pitch and how difficult it is for the batsman anyway, I guess for me it's handy to be an all-rounder because at least it might help me with the newer ball. The feedback is it's a lot of hard work for the batters, the ball is consistently moving around and I've been told it's been a bit up-and-down. The groundsman is apparently doing his absolute best to get the wicket very competitive and hopefully he will bring it all together for the Test match." – <b>Shane Watson</b>, commenting on the re-laid surface.

<b>Happy Hunting Ground</b><br>Given that it was his home ground, Ricky Ponting scored the most Test runs at this venue. But given that he is retired as of last week, the most successful current player is <b>Michael Hussey</b>, who has an average of 72 at the ground. He has scored two centuries in his four matches here, the best of which was 137.

Aussie skipper <b>Michael Clarke</b> also enjoys batting here, and in his four Tests he's recorded an average of 52.80. Given his current run of form, having scored two double tons against the Proteas, he will likely bump up his numbers here and give <a href='http://www.paddypower.com/bet/cricket' class='instorylink'><b>cricket betting</b></a> fans a bit of a boost.

As for the Sri Lankans, <b>Kumar Sangakkara</b> is the top scorer at the venue, having scored 249 runs in the one Test he played here. That game saw him score 192 runs in one innings, as far back as 2007.

As far as the bowling goes, only <b>Peter Siddle</b> has anything to brag about, as he's taken 11 wickets in the two Tests he's played here. Even Shane Warne only played here six times, so the stats are not compelling. There are no current Sri Lankan bowlers on the list.

<b>Weather Forecast</b><br>Looking at the predictions for the weekend of this Test, it seems clouds will be around for most of the action. Day one isn't supposed to see rain, but it will be overcast, which could help the swing bowlers.

Day two is set to have some rain ruin the parade, while Sunday is set to have clear patches in between the rain. Monday doesn't look good though, with dark graphics indicating rain for much of the day, so the relative clarity on day five could see the game conclude with a draw.

<b>Conclusion</b><br>The groundskeeper at the Bellerive Oval has come under fire this week for re-laying the field so close to a Test match, and batsmen can expect a wicket that bounces this way and that, while also staying low on occasion. Bookmakers like <a href='http://www.paddypower.com/bet/cricket' class='instorylink'><b>Paddy Power</b></a> are stacking the odds in favour of the hosts, given their record.

The players will need to navigate tricky waters if they're to make a decent score, so one imagines this one will be down to whichever side's fast bowlers can do the best job. It might be a low-scoring game again, and the rain could well play a part in curtailing any decent batting effort