MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Cricket Australia boss Kevin Roberts has urged Melbourne Cricket Ground staff not to “overreact” to the abandonment of a domestic match due to a dangerous pitch by producing a flat wicket for next week’s Boxing Day test against New Zealand.
A Sheffield Shield match at the MCG was halted last week because of a dangerous surface on which several Western Australia batsmen took body blows from deliveries that reared up at them.
The abandonment was embarrassing for groundsman Matt Page and Melbourne Cricket Club, but Roberts backed ground staff to produce a wicket that would challenge both batsman and bowler.
“We’re really keen to ensure that the MCC doesn’t overreact to the situation in the last Shield game,” he told reporters in Melbourne on Wednesday.
“The great news was that no players were injured in that situation. We learned a lot from it ...
“So we’re confident that there won’t be an overreaction, and that will see a better balance between bat and ball at the MCG.”
The MCG’s drop-in wicket has been under scrutiny since it was given a “poor” rating by the International Cricket Council after a dull draw between Australia and England in the 2017-18 Ashes series.
In last year’s annual Boxing Day test, which begins on Dec. 26, India beat Australia by 137 runs, and the pitch was rated “average”. But the wicket was still criticised by media pundits and fans for offering bowlers little assistance on the opening day.
Roberts said the fresh wicket for the second test between Australia and New Zealand would have more grass than the previous two Boxing Day strips.
“Other than that last Shield game, the condition of pitches at the MCG has been on a significant increase over the last period of time since Matt and the team took the concrete base out from under the pitches and replaced it with sand,” he said.
“The feedback from the curators is that it feels different to roll, the feedback from players is that it feels different and even sounds different to play on.
“It sounds like a proper turf wicket now rather than something that’s more like a concrete deck, so we’re really optimistic about Boxing Day.”
Australia lead the three-match series against New Zealand 1-0 after winning the pink-ball day-night opener by 296 runs in Perth.
Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Kevin Liffey