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Gabba pitch given below average rating by ICC after two-day first Test between Australia and South Africa

The Gabba pitch produced for the first Test between Australia and South Africa has been rated as below average by the ICC.

Match referee, former West Indies batter Richie Richardson, said the contest "was not an even contest between bat and ball".

"Overall, the Gabba pitch for this Test match was too much in favour of the bowlers. There was extra bounce and occasional excessive seam movement."

The ruling means the Gabba will receive its first demerit point.

If a venue accrues more than five demerit points over a five-year rolling period, it will be suspended from hosting international cricket for 12 months.

The pitches for the three Gabba Tests preceding this one have been progressively rated worse since 2019.

The pitch was rated very good in the 2019 Test against Pakistan, good for the India Test in 2021, to average for last year's Ashes Test. 

The lively green pitch drew the ire of some players after 34 wickets fell in two days' play — the second shortest by balls bowled in Australian Test history.

South Africa captain Dean Elgar told reporters after the game that he approached the umpires to question whether the pitch was becoming dangerous.

"I don't think it was a very good Test wicket," he said.

"You've gotta ask yourself the question, is that a good advertisement for our format?"

Steve Smith said the pitch "wasn't much fun" to bat on and rated it as one of the most challenging that he's ever played on in Australia when interviewed by Channel 7 after the conclusion to the match on Sunday.

When asked by ABC Sport, bowler Scott Boland questioned whether the surface offered a balanced contest between bat and ball.

Smith and Elgar both referenced the divots on the pitch that aided the sideways movement and excessive bounce.

"I'm not a curator, I wouldn't know how to prepare a cricket pitch," Elgar said.

"But it was interesting to see how quickly this one actually start divoting and how quickly the ball sped up, especially today, the older ball was flying though, which shouldn't really be happening.

"The divots definitely had quite a big role to play, especially with the sideways movement and then … the ball with that steep bounce, which is quite something to face."

Even Gabba curator David Sandurski admitted the pitch was "obviously not good enough for a match of this magnitude" in an interview with NewsCorp.

Australian skipper Pat Cummins though, was quick to dismiss suggestions that the pitch was dangerous.

"It [the pitch] was fine," he said.

"[There was some] Sideways movement, there was a little bit of up and down bounce, but no, it was fine.

"No ball was jumping off a length or anything like that."

Proteas quick Kagisa Rabada said he did not mind a lively pitch, but admitted that "it looked quite bad out there for the batters.".

"The ball was absolutely doing heaps," he said. 

The lifeless MCG pitch for the fourth Ashes Test in 2017 was the first to be rated as poor for a Test match in Australia.

Test pitch ratings explained

The ICC rates the pitch for every international match that is held, be it Test, ODI or T20I and has done since 2006.

The match referee assesses the pitch and outfield before delivering a rating for each.

A pitch can be rated very good, good, average, below average, poor or unfit.

If a pitch is labelled substandard, i.e. given a rating of poor or unfit, the home board has to explain why that was the case.

Any rating below average will incur demerit points: one for below average, three for poor and five for unfit.

The ICC recently rated the pitch used for the first Test between Pakistan and England at Rawalpindi as below average. It was also rated as below average for Australia's draw in March this year.

Few pitches are ever rated as unfit, although the fifth ODI between India and Sri Lanka at Dehli's Arun Jaitley Stadium was abandoned after just 23.3 overs after referee Alan Hurst decided the "extremely variable bounce" meant any further play was too dangerous.

One Test that would have surely earned an unfit rating was the Sabina Park pitch for the Test between the West Indies and England in 1998, which lasted just 10.1 overs before being abandoned due to extreme variable bounce, with both captains agreeing the pitch was unfit for play.

An unfit outfield though, was to blame in 2009, when the same two teams met in Antigua at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, with the match being called off after just 10 balls.

The venue was banned from hosting international cricket for 12 months and did not host another Test for over three years.

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