MCG groundsman and curator Matt Page used to work at the WACA. Picture: Getty
MCG groundsman and curator Matt Page used to work at the WACA. Picture: Getty

Desperate bid to fix MCG’s Boxing Day snoozefest

THE MCG will overhaul its maligned centre wicket area next year in a bid to restore the ground's reputation and avoid being stripped of the iconic Boxing Day Test.

Work will begin in March on the historic ground after this year's pitch was labelled depressing by Australian fielding coach Brad Haddin.

Cricket Australia chief executive Kevin Roberts was another to forecast an urgent need for action in relation to the Boxing Day pitch.

India's first-innings total of 7-443 (dec) took up all but seven overs of the first two days and follows last year's Ashes snoozefest.

The 2017 deck was rated poor by the ICC, which warned that a repeat could cost Melbourne its showpiece event.

But updated pitch rules, released in January, provided the MCG with a clean slate.

A below-average rating is worth one demerit point, while a poor pitch is given three points. A venue loses hosting rights if it accrues five points over a rolling five-year period.

MCG groundsman Matt Page talks with Marcus Harris, Mitch Marsh and Travis Head as they inspect the pitch. Picture: Getty
MCG groundsman Matt Page talks with Marcus Harris, Mitch Marsh and Travis Head as they inspect the pitch. Picture: Getty

Australian opener Aaron Finch, who will resume on Friday on three not out, said a result was still possible, despite the first two days offering little assistance to the bowlers.

"There wasn't a huge amount of bounce or sideways movement for us yesterday and I think today was pretty similar," Finch said.

"It's not your traditional Australian wicket that you have three slips and a gully all day and you bang away and the ball seams and carries like we saw in Perth.

"I think you've just go to adapt your game plan and regardless of what the wicket is, what it presents day-to-day you've got to be good enough to adapt and change your game plans."

It's understood the MCG's new curator Matt Page, who previously worked at the WACA, will develop a new base for the drop-in wickets that will be similar to pitches used in Perth and Adelaide.

Aaron Finch survived to stumps on day two along with fellow opener Marcus Harris. Picture: Getty
Aaron Finch survived to stumps on day two along with fellow opener Marcus Harris. Picture: Getty

The existing concrete slab base will be replaced by a concrete rail that will allow for natural drainage and growing conditions, which it's hoped will help with deterioration of the wicket during a game.

 

Finch said the pitch had started to deteriorate after he and opening partner Marcus Harris faced seven overs before the close of play on THursday.

"We saw tonight, even with the new ball, there was skidding through, there were a couple that took off, it's still game on," he said.

"I think all three results (win, lose or draw) are still on the table."

CA boss Roberts said he would have liked to see more bounce and carry on the wicket on day one.

"Matt Page, the new curator here who's come across from the WACA, has worked tirelessly to do everything that he can do with the existing drop-in pitches and I'm not sure Matt could have done a whole lot more," he said.

"Let's give it another four days so we can assess it from a broader perspective.

"There's no sense rushing these things (but) we need a sense of urgency at the same time in terms of the regeneration of this wicket.

"We'll assess it at the end of the five days but we do know that it is nearing time for regeneration of this entire wicket square."

Curator Page tried to engineer "wear and tear" by putting seven wickets instead of the traditional 10 on the centre wicket in the hope the pitch deteriorates as the game goes on.

He also put sand under the pitch and gave it more water in a bid to enliven things.

News Corp Australia


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