Australian News

Boxing Day Test pitch set to ‘provide a contest and exciting cricket’ despite concerns


December 23, 2019 14:52:59

Head curator Matt Page has vowed to continue pushing the boundaries with pitch preparation in a bid to produce a lively MCG deck for the Boxing Day Test.

The much-maligned wicket took a huge hit earlier this month when a Sheffield Shield match was abandoned because of player safety fears on a surface the MCC later conceded had contained too much moisture.

Cricket Australia even brought in veteran curator Les Burdett to help oversee the preparations for Boxing Day, with the former Adelaide Oval pitch guru confident it would hold up despite the concerns.

But former WACA curator Page, who was headhunted two years ago to fix the flat and lifeless MCG pitch, is confident preparation is on track three days out from the second Test between Australia and New Zealand.

“It’s no different this game from what we’ve been doing [this season],” Page said.

“We know where we went wrong with the third one [Shield match].

“It’s an easy fix; we just left too much moisture in it.

“Hindsight’s a wonderful thing, but we’ll bring that moisture back for this Test match and we’ll probably see something very similar to the first two Shield matches we saw this year.

“The feedback from those was very, very positive, so we’re really happy with where we’re at and confident.”

Interestingly, Page said the same thing before last year’s Boxing Day contest against India.

Last year, the tourists amassed 7-443 over the best part of two days, although wickets did tumble on days three and four as India wrapped up a 137-run victory.

New Zealand’s pace battery delivered a barrage of bouncers during the first Test in Perth, with Neil Wagner’s short-pitched bowling in particular troubling the Australian batsmen.

Page conceded the MCG would not have as much pace and bounce as Optus Stadium but promised good grass coverage on a pitch that he expected to break up under forecast hot temperatures later in the match.

“That’s what we’ve done all year with our Shield games, we’ve left grass on it, which has provided that seam movement,” Page said.

“One thing it has also done is given the spinners an opportunity … so it’s given a bit for everyone in the Shield games this year, and that’s what we’re hoping to produce on Boxing Day.

“It’s not going to be like Perth. We’re not Perth Stadium and we’re not the Gabba.

“But we’ll try to get as much carry and pace in it on day one as we can, and get the sideways movement as well.

“We’ll try to produce something that’s going to provide a contest and exciting cricket.”

A lack of deterioration in the pitch in recent years has led to a batsman’s paradise, which reached its nadir two years ago when the ICC gave the MCG a “poor” pitch rating.

The MCC is forecasting a record crowd for a non-Ashes Test match on Boxing Day, with up to 80,000 fans expected.








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