Melbourne Cricket Ground

MCG pitch causes concern, but CA allays fears over Boxing Day Test

Australia news

Cricket Australia said it would do all it could to ensure “the best possible wicket” is used for Australia’s Boxing Day Test against New Zealand at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, following the suspension of play during a Sheffield Shield match due to concerns over the pitch.

The opening day’s play between Victoria and Western Australia was abandoned with two balls left in the 40th over, after the Western Australian batsmen had to cope with variable bounce and balls rearing off the pitch while facing Peter Siddle, Andrew Fekete and Co.

When play was abandoned, soon after Fekete struck Marcus Stoinis on the ribs, Western Australia were 89/3 after being asked to bat.

The development has raised concerns over how the surface would behave during the flagship Boxing Day Test in less than three weeks. However, Peter Roach, CA’s head of cricket operations, said the MCG curator and groundstaff have enough time to sort out any issues that may arise.

“We’re very disappointed at today’s play being abandoned in the Sheffield Shield match between Victoria and Western Australia,” Roach said. “But we also acknowledge that there have been two previous Shield matches at the MCG this season without incident.

“Matt Page [the curator] and the MCG groundstaff have more than two weeks to ensure the Test surface, which is a different pitch strip to the one being used in this match, is of international standard.

“We will seek to better understand the issues that resulted in variable bounce at the MCG on Saturday. We will also work closely with MCG groundstaff in the lead-up to the Test match.”

Shortly after play was suspended, the roller was used on the pitch, and there will be another inspection on the second morning before the umpires decide on resumption. Roach praised their decision to put player safety first.

“The safety of our players is always our highest priority,” Roach said. “The decision to suspend play and roll the wicket in an effort to address the variable bounce was the correct one, and I applaud umpires Gillespie and Joshua for the decisive action taken.”

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