In the game of cricket, the cricket pitch consists of the central strip of the cricket field between the wickets. It is 22 yd (20.12 m) long (1 chain) and 10 ft (3.05 m) wide. The surface is flat and is normally covered with extremely short grass, but can be completely dry or dusty soil with barely any grass or, in some circumstances (that are rarely seen in high level cricket), made from an artificial material. Over the course of a cricket match, the pitch is not repaired or altered other than in special circumstances - meaning that it will change condition. Any grass on the pitch in the game's first over, for example, may have disappeared by the twentieth over due to wear.
As almost all deliveries bowled will bounce off the pitch towards the batsmen, the state and type of a cricket pitch can significantly affect the outcome of a match. For example, a dusty, very dry, pitch will favour spin bowling because the ball will grip more on a dusty pitch - giving the team with the superior spin bowlers a significant advantage in the match. The state of the pitch is so important to the outcome of a cricket match that home teams can be fined or docked points if they produce a poor pitch that is deemed unfit for normal play, or seen to be a danger to batsmen by the ball behaving erratically when pitching on it. Players can face disciplinary action if they are seen to be deliberately damaging or altering the pitch in ways that are not allowed by the Laws of Cricket. Because of this, coaches, players, commentators and pundits will make much of how the pitch is "behaving" during a cricket match, especially during a first class or a Test match that takes place over several days, wherein the condition of the pitch can change significantly over that period. These conditions will impact on the decision at the coin toss at the beginning of the game, as to whether batting first or bowling first is more advantageous. For example, a captain will prefer to bat first if the pitch is "flat" and presumably easier to bat on, but may be tempted to bowl first on a greener, more moist pitch that favours movement of the ball early.
In amateur matches in some parts of the world, artificial pitches are sometimes used. These can be a slab of concrete overlaid with a coir mat or artificial turf. Sometimes dirt is put over the coir mat to provide an authentic feeling pitch. Artificial pitches are rare in professional cricket, being used only when exhibition matches are played in regions where cricket is not a common sport.
The word wicket often occurs in reference to the pitch. Although technically incorrect according to the Laws of Cricket (Law 6 covers the pitch and Law 8 the wickets, distinguishing between them), cricket players, followers, and commentators persist in the usage, with context eliminating any possible ambiguity. Track or deck are other synonyms for pitch.
The rectangular central area of the cricket field – the space used for pitches – is known as the square. Cricket pitches are usually oriented as close to the north-south direction as practical, because the low afternoon sun would be dangerous for a batsman facing due west.