London: As Australia resumed play on Friday morning at 337 for one having had very little trouble from England`s bowlers on the opening day, the dead pitch was a hot topic of conversation among punters settling down around Lord`s.
Preparing wickets to suit the strengths of the home team has long been part of international cricket.
Dust bowls on the sub-continent are tailor-made for India`s spin bowling prowess while the dominant West Indies team of the 1980s thrived on the hard pacy wickets in the Caribbean which assisted their battery of fast bowlers.
England have traditionally been less willing to prepare wickets to help their side and equally reluctant to admit to it when they do but the slow track in Cardiff on which they secured a surprise victory in the first test was a deliberate policy to negate the threat of the Australian quicks.
Gun fast bowler Mitchell Johnson, who destroyed England on the last Ashes tour Down Under, was muted and the plan was fully vindicated.
Lord`s groundsman Mick Hunt set up another slow track but, unfortunately for England, Australia captain Michael Clarke won the toss and had no hesitation in opting to bat.
Chris Rogers and Steve Smith duly filled their boots and the placid wicket, unconducive to entertaining cricket and a good contest between bat and ball, copped widespread flak.
"I`ve got to say I`m a little disappointed," former Australia leg-spinner Shane Warne said.
"Usually the Lord`s wicket is a great batting wicket with a bit of pace. This one just looks like the weather beat them a bit. It looks like they needed another two or three days of sunshine to harden it up a bit."
With attendances at test matches around the world dwindling, the International Cricket Council has launched a project to find out the underlying reasons.
"The same administrators asking for this pitch are wondering why people are not coming to test cricket," former Australia captain Ricky Pointing told Sky Sports.
In fairness to Hunt, he did prepare an excellent wicket for the first test against New Zealand in May in which a record 1,600 runs were scored in a thrilling match that ebbed and flowed over five days.
The Ashes, however, is the oldest rivalry in the sport and the jewel in the crown of international cricket and its appeal was probably not enhanced by only one wicket falling on the first day of an Ashes test for 22 years.
Although slow pitches may give England their best chance of winning back the urn, if the wickets for the last three tests at Edgbaston, Trent Bridge and The Oval are equally lifeless then the tactic of winning at all costs will be questioned again.
"If you prepare pitches like this then the contest dies," former England captain Michael Vaughan wrote in the Telegraph
"There was grass on this pitch earlier in the week but it has had the pace taken out of it deliberately.
"This dead pitch put so much importance on the toss of a coin which is such a shame."