A lot of attention over the next couple of days will be on the pitch that will be used for the Boxing Day Test between India and Australia in Melbourne, for two reasons.
One, the pitch in Perth that made for some exciting cricket but was rated average by the ICC, much to the surprise of many. Two, the Melbourne Cricket Pitch was rated poor after a dull draw in the Ashes last season. Add to that, two of three first class matches played at the MCG so far this season have also been drawn.
New MCG Curator Matthew Page has, however, eased fears about the state of the third Test, saying the surface used in the most recent JLT Sheffield Shield match at the venue should be disregarded.
“We went into that game trying to get it a little bit harder and a little bit drier and we didn’t get the result we wanted,” he told cricket.com.au of the Victoria-Western Australia match where 31 wickets fell over four days.
“But we’ll learn from that, we’ll move forward and make sure it doesn’t happen again.
“We had three Shield games leading into this and the big plan for us was to play around with a few things to ensure we get it right for Boxing Day. We’ve got some things right … and other things we wanted to improve from.”
Page said the Test pitch will most closely replicate the surface used for the Shield match between Victoria and South Australia last month, where the Vics were denied victory by a washed out final day.
Scott Boland took 7-54 in the first innings for Victoria and nine wickets for the match as quicks from both sides dominated, and leg-spinner Fawad Ahmed also picked up four wickets to indicate both pace and spin bowlers found some assistance.
“I think it was the best pitch we’ve played on the G for probably three years,” Boland was quoted as saying by cricket.com.au on Sunday.
“There was a bit of green grass and a bit of carry through for the quicks, which is rare given what we’ve been used to in the past. And I’m sure Nathan Lyon and if (Ravichandran) Ashwin plays, they’ll be a handful on that as well.
“We were unlucky not to get a result through losing the last day through rain, but there seemed to be a bit there for everyone,” Page said about that pitch. “There was a bit for the quicks, a couple of guys scored hundreds, and the feedback we got from that game was really positive.”
Having relocated from the WACA Ground in Perth this year, Page denied that the Ashes Test put any extra pressure on him in what is going to be his first Boxing Day Test as MCG curator.
“It doesn’t matter what pitch you get the previous year and what rating you get,” he said.
“Every year you try and do the best possible job you can. Whether you succeeded the year before or (not), I think there’s still the same pressure there.
“There’s a lot of excitement being my first Boxing Day pitch. Yes, there’s pressure there as well, which is understandable being a big sporting occasion. But I’m very excited.”
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