The final cricket match to be played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground before New Zealand face Australia in the Boxing Day test has been abandoned due to safety concerns about the pitch.
The first day’s play of a four-day clash between Victoria and Western Australia was called off on Saturday after several Western Australian batsmen were hit on a dangerous MCG pitch.
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Western Australian batsman Shaun Marsh was hit several times and later went for a concussion test, and was quoted by news.com as saying the pitch was “unplayable”.
Despite extensive efforts overnight by ground staff, umpires decided on Sunday that the pitch was unsuitable for cricket and the match would be abandoned.
The drama occurred just 19 days out from one of the Black Caps’ biggest test matches in years – and their first Boxing Day test in 32 years. The match is one of the highlights in a busy season of cricket for the Black Caps, and thousands of Kiwi fans are due to make the trip across the Tasman.
But Cricket Australia has pledged to get that particular pitch – which will be a different one to the strip used today – right come Boxing Day.
“We will seek to better understand the issues that resulted in variable bounce at the MCG. We will also work closely with MCG groundstaff in the lead up to the Test match,” said Cricket Australia head of operations Peter Roach.
“But we also acknowledge that there have been two previous Shield matches at the MCG this season without incident.
“Matt Page 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.”
Indeed, Black Caps opener Tom Latham told Radio Sport he was confident that a competitive, safe pitch would greet them come Boxing Day.
“I’m sure by the time the Boxing Day test comes around they’ll have everything sorted. I’m sure it will be on a different wicket or a different part of the block.
“From our point of view, we’ve just got off a plane and heard that news… from our point of view there’s no concern.”
However, the abandonment is another blow for an MCG pitch which has been criticised as being too docile in recent years and has received unfavourable ICC ratings.
The Boxing Day test is the second of three tests the Black Caps will play in Australia, with the team having flown out on Saturday to Perth for the first test, a day-night pink-ball encounter, which starts on Thursday.