… Boards have 14 days to respondTHE outfields at Kingsmead and Queen’s Park Oval have been rated poor by the ICC match referees who oversaw the washed-out Tests between South Africa and New Zealand in Durban, and West Indies and India in Trinidad.The ICC said the officials – Andy Pycroft in Durban and Ranjan Madugalle in Trinidad – had expressed concerns in accordance with clause three of the Pitch and Outfield Monitoring Process. The match referees’ reports have been forwarded to the concerned home boards, the WICB and Cricket South Africa, which now have 14 days to respond. CSA’s response, the ICC said, will be reviewed by ICC general manager, cricket, Geoff Allardice, while match referee David Boon will assess the WICB’s reply.Then, as per the rules, the grounds will either receive a warning or a fine not exceeding US$15 000, along with “a directive for appropriate corrective action”. A repeat offence over the next five years would draw a fine not exceeding US$30 000.In all, 11 sessions out of 15 were lost to a wet and soft outfield at Kingsmead, while in Port of Spain, West Indies and India were able to play only one session across five days.It was the first Test played in Trinidad in August, which is the wet season there, and rain had hampered preparations in the days leading up to the match but during the game itself there was largely sunshine.However, with there not being enough covers at the ground to protect the bowlers’ run-ups or the outfield, and no super sopper available either, the outfield did not recover enough to allow play. The draw meant that India, who needed to win the Test to retain their No.1 Test ranking, lost the top spot to Pakistan. The Trinidad & Tobago Cricket Board had already said it would investigate the reasons behind the washout.The Durban Test was also scheduled in what is traditionally the off-season in South Africa, during the winter. Rain forced the players off the field around lunch on day two, and the big damage was done to the outfield that night, when the ground took 65mm of water. Here, too, the covers did not protect large parts of the field, and the super sopper was made to stop operating for fear it would do further damage to the soft patches that persisted into day five despite no more rainfall.There were concerns over the Kingsmead outfield being underprepared even before the match began, as it had been relaid in June following complaints from South Africa and New Zealand that the surface was too hard during the limited-overs games played there last year.Similar comments were levelled at Centurion, the venue of the upcoming second Test, but the SuperSport Park outfield was relaid in April once the season ended; work could not get underway at Kingsmead till the Comrades Marathon – for which it is the ending point – was completed on May 29.
Eric He | Daily TrojanIt started with a bad snap. It only got worse from there. The final score read 49-14 in favor of Notre Dame, and it was every bit as lopsided, every bit as painful, torturous and agonizing as one might imagine. USC rolled into South Bend on Saturday night as the 11th-ranked team in the country, a fringe contender for the national championship. It departed back for Los Angeles with those hopes now dashed, the hype train completely derailed and the sense that this team — in what was supposed to be a landmark season —was vastly overrated. We could have seen it coming. The Trojans were asking for the pummeling they received. Sure, they started the season 6-1 with a respectable lone loss coming at Washington State. But — as I’ve described in this column week after week — despite piling up wins, USC was not piling up confidence, nor was it getting better week-to-week. Almost every single week, we’ve seen issues with some key facet of the game —redshirt sophomore quarterback Sam Darnold struggling, wide receivers dropping balls, the offensive line falling prey to injury, the playcalling being questioned, the secondary giving up long completions. And on Saturday, in front of a raucous sold-out crowd of 77,622 at Notre Dame Stadium in primetime, every single issue that has plagued the Trojans this season came to light. It was like a dam that could no longer hold in the water that had slowly but surely been encroaching as the season progressed, and on the big stage in a historic rivalry game, the floodwaters poured through. Darnold was asked where he would start when he looked back at the film. “Play one,” he said. “Play one,” in a sense, encapsulated the season for USC. The defense had given Darnold and the offense an ideal start to the game, forcing a three-and-out and decent field position for the Trojans. But the first snap to Darnold sailed high. He readjusted to catch it, but as he pushed to salvage some yards, coughed up the ball at the bottom of the pile. Notre Dame recovered, and three quick plays later, the Irish were in the end zone. It’s happened time and time again this season: The defense hands the offense the ball in great scoring position, only to have the offense drop the ball —literally. After that sequence, there would be no more bailing out. The offense being shut down in the first half meant the defense was consistently on the field — and it was not ready whatsoever for Notre Dame’s rushing attack. The Irish torched the Trojans on the ground for 377 yards, averaging eight yards per carry. Running back Josh Adams came six yards shy of a 200-yard night, scoring three touchdowns and, at times, sprinting right through tackles or wide open gaps like the defense didn’t exist. So did quarterback Brandon Wimbush, who looked like more of a running back the way USC parted for him. Sure, the Trojans had several key injuries. But that’s no excuse for Darnold to fumble or to throw a telegraphed interception or to somehow miss a wide-open redshirt senior wide receiver Steven Mitchell Jr. downfield, for reliable freshman placekicker Chase McGrath to miss a 27-yard field goal, for sophomore punt returner Jack Jones to fumble away a fair catch or for the entire defensive unit to forget how to tackle. There are the playoff-caliber teams who don’t make those simple mistakes, who take care of the ball and finish off the routine plays that can go a long way to winning a game. And then there are the Trojans, who have five-star talent up and down their roster and somehow look like a junior varsity squad against a team that they should match up with. Whether it’s shooting itself in the foot, bad coaching or too-lofty expectations, Saturday night’s game ended any debate: USC just isn’t very good. It was easy to overlook when the Trojans were winning. When they squeaked past Texas in double overtime, we praised Darnold for being clutch. When they only beat Utah by a point, we exulted in how stellar the defense was. The team never fixed the problems that led to games being close in the first place. They were never fully prepared for an unfamiliar opponent in Notre Dame, which may be far and away the best team USC plays this season. So, after an uplifting season last year when the Trojans had found “The Next Big Thing” at quarterback and everybody proclaimed, “USC is back” after the Rose Bowl win, it’s clear now that USC is not back, and it never was. Instead, it’s back to being underwhelming, to playing in the Holiday Bowl instead of the Rose Bowl, to continuously failing to recapture the dominance of the Pete Caroll era. In the midst of the blowout on Saturday, media members in the press box bet on whether head coach Clay Helton would mention that USC still controlled its own destiny in the Pac-12 South and was still in play for a Pac-12 championship. And Helton did exactly that in his postgame presser, almost word-for-word, as did other coaches and players. Sure, the goal articulated by both Helton and Athletic Director Lynn Swann for this season was a Pac-12 Championship. And, sitting atop the Pac-12 South, that is very much still in play. Still, it is clear that no matter how many games USC wins the rest of the way, its season will be seen as a disappointment by the fans, by the media and hopefully by the team itself. We were led to believe that the Trojans were better than this, that this would be the breakthrough season, that the return to glory was on the horizon. We were all wrong.Before the game on Saturday, there was a magnificent sunset above the stadium, glistening in the twilight. It was an idyllic sight with the picturesque Notre Dame campus in the backdrop. But as kickoff approached, it faded away and the lights took full effect as darkness enveloped Notre Dame Stadium. The sun had set on South Bend, and three hours later, it would also set on USC’s season.Eric He is a junior studying print and digital journalism. He is also the associate managing editor for the Daily Trojan. His column, Grinding Gears, runs Mondays.