ICC rates Ashes Melbourne pitch as ‘poor’
MELBOURNE: The Melbourne pitch for the fourth Ashes Test match has been rated “poor” by the International Cricket Council (ICC), reportedly the first for an Australian ground, just days after players also criticised the conditions.
The showpiece Boxing Day match, which ended in a draw, denied England their first win of the series that Australia had already claimed with an unassailable three-nil lead.
It was only the second Boxing Day Test draw in 20 years.
The drop-in pitch at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) was unforgiving for bowlers, with a total of 1,081 runs scored and only 24 wickets taken over five days.
Match referee Ranjan Madugalle noted the unfavourable conditions in his report to the ICC, while Australia captain Steve Smith and England skipper Joe Root also hit out at the lifeless pitch after the Test.
“The pitch… has been rated as ‘poor’ under the ICC Pitch and Outfield Monitoring Process,” the governing body said in a statement.
In his report, Madugalle had said “the bounce of the MCG pitch was medium, but slow in pace and got slower as the match progressed”.
“The nature of the pitch did not change over the five days and there was no natural deterioration,” he added.
“As such, the pitch did not allow an even contest between the bat and the ball as it neither favoured the batsmen too much nor it gave the bowlers sufficient opportunity to take wickets.”
The ICC rating comes just two days before the introduction of a new penalty system for grounds that could have seen the MCG hit with demerit points.
Under the system, if a ground reaches five points the venue will be suspended from hosting international matches for 12 months, and for two years if the venue accumulates 10 points.
Cricket Australia Chief Executive Officer James Sutherland said Tuesday he was “disappointed that the traditional characteristics of the MCG pitch did not come to the fore during the Boxing Day Test”.
“We’ll be taking on board advice from the ICC, players and relevant experts to work with the Melbourne Cricket Club to ensure this rating is not repeated.”
The Melbourne Cricket Club, which prepares and maintains the playing surface and facilities, said it was also disappointed with the pitch.
“We recognise that the surface did not contain the bounce, pace or subsequent deterioration that we expected, and was not conducive to a balanced contest between bat and ball,” it said in a statement, cricket.com.au reported.
“We will be working rigorously to improve our performance and are confident and determined to produce portable wickets that generate entertaining cricket in 2018 and beyond.”