Two full days baking in Melbourne sunshine before the Boxing Day Test starts could be crucial to the pitch preparation for MCG curator Matt Page after an initial inspection from the South Africans found it a “little bit soft”.
After training on Friday Proteas’ batting coach Justin Sammons in fact said the wicket was softer at the same stage of preparations than the Gabba wicket in Brisbane which was rated as “below average” after the opening Test was won by Australia inside two days.
Last year’s Boxing Day Test lasted less than three days, as local hero Scott Boland took 6-7 to rock England on debut.
The Victorian, who remains unsure if he’ll get to play again this year, was adamant the MCG wicket had produced a “good battle between bat and ball” for most recent matches he’s played at the iconic venue.
But Sammons, who noted it was “less green” than the Gabba pitch, wasn’t enthused by what he saw on first inspection.
“I felt it earlier, I had a look. It‘s still a couple days out so it’s gonna be tough to say but it was a little bit soft at the moment, but yeah, we’ll see where it’s at in two or three days time,” he said.
“It’s different in it’s colour complexion (to the Gabba), a little bit less green. There is grass on the wicket, but it’s less green. At the moment is it is a little bit softer than the Gabba was at this stage.”
Despite the early look at the pitch Sammons said there was no concerns from his team about a repeat of the Gabba debacle, where the Proteas were all out for 99 in their second innings.
He said his batting outfit didn’t “play to our potential” and conditions couldn’t be an excuse.
“But both teams play on it. At the end of the day, you know, we can‘t use the conditions as an excuse,” he said.
“The bottom line is we didn’t play to our potential, if we did, we would have had a better chance of winning the game.
“So yeah, both teams play on the surface and it’s who adapts best. Obviously, they showed that in the first test, and we’ve got to make sure that we correct that.”
Boland, who was picked for Boxing Day last summer after being described as an “MCG expert” by selection chief George Bailey having taken wickets when the pitch was flat and didn’t lend itself to bowlers.
But while Boland has shown himself capable of taking wickets anywhere, he conceded the new MCG wicket was better for bowling, but not a one-way pitch.
“There used to be stages during Sheffield Shield seasons, we rock up and it would look like a one-day wicket … it never really broke up, there was never really footmarks on the wicket at all was always just sort of the same thing,” Boland said.
“So yeah, now (Page) has come in, leaves a little bit more grass on the wicket, he’s got a bit mote pace in it which is really nice. When it’s like that … if you bat really well you can score runs and if you put the ball in a good area all the time, you‘re always in the game.”
Leave a Reply