Somerset escape pitch penalty because of lack of evidence
Somerset have escaped a points penalty by the ECB's Cricket Discipline Committee after a full-scale investigation accepted the initial verdict that the pitch should be marked as "below average."
But the county, which received a final warning for a surface prepared against Middlesex almost a year ago, have now received a final, final warning.
The CDC report concluded: "Somerset CCC's pitch preparation will continue to be monitored very closely. The club should expect any proven breach of ECB's pitch regulations in future to result in a points deduction."
A carefully measured statement indicated that the ECB had not taken action because of lack of evidence and they warned Somerset that they were "treading a very fine line".
The match against Lancashire ended in a tie with Lancashire's director of cricket Paul Allott fuming that, in his view, Somerset had not tried to create the best possible pitch, as regulations, for the game.
Somerset's defeat at Hampshire effectively ended their Championship challenge, but they will go into 2019 knowing that they cannot afford to incur the wrath of those in high places.
Dean Cosker, the Cricket Liaison Officer at Taunton, rated the pitch 'Below Average' on the grounds of excessive turn. An investigation was then carried out by a second CLO with support from the ECB Pitch Consultant Chris Wood.
The CDC considered whether there were any factors relating to the preparation of the pitch that were beyond Somerset CCC's control and whether they intended to prepare the best quality pitch they could.
The investigation concluded: "All parties agreed that the pitch was under prepared. There were various explanations for this and while the reasons given by Somerset may be regarded as satisfactory, the fact is that they cannot be considered as any more than that.
"The Somerset groundsman stated that he sought to prepare the best possible pitch but heavy rain cost a day of preparation time.
"Some of the factors which might indicate intent in the way the pitch was prepared were absent. This is significant. These would include over-aggressive scarification of the ends to accentuate wear, or use of a sand ameliorant dressing to enhance friction / grip. There was no evidence that this had occurred.
"This lack of evidence means that CDC cannot, on balance, direct ECB to charge Somerset CCC with a breach of regulation. ECB would simply not be able to make the case that action, or inaction by Somerset CCC constituted a breach of the regulation requiring them to seek to prepare the best quality pitch.
"CDC notes Somerset's practice of preparing pitches to assist their spinners. This may be regarded as making use of home advantage, and CDC notes that ECB is keen to support opportunities for all disciplines in the game. However, they must take care that it is in the right degree. They are treading a very fine line."