A three-year project to produce the best cricket wicket in Australia has paid off for MCG officials after rave reviews for first pitch of the season.
Curator Matt Page was given the task of saving the MCG from being bumped off the international schedule when the pitch for the 2017 Ashes Test was rated “poor” by the International Cricket Council.
While the new pitches Page began to build are yet to be used, with only one among the seven put in place in September, the rebuilt wickets have come alive.
NSW captain Kurtis Patterson called the pitch used for this week’s Sheffield Shield clash with Victoria, won by the home team, one of the best he’s played on anywhere.
A lively final day interaction between Victorian quick James Pattinson and NSW batsman Daniel Hughes was evidence of lots of day four life in a pitch that has ground staff buzzing ahead of Boxing Day.
“I thought it was one of the best cricket wickets I’ve played on,” Patterson said.
“Without a doubt, the best wicket I’ve played on at the MCG. I think generally speaking, it’s one of the best cricket wickets.
“I thought he (Page) just nailed the balance between bat and ball.
“Gave the bowlers something the whole time, but if the bowlers missed, then as a batter you were able to score freely.
“I certainly think if he produces something like that for Boxing Day, then it‘ll be a great spectacle for everyone.”
Batsmen who walked off the MCG wicket during that Boxing Day Test in 2017 called it “completely dead”.
England captain Alastair Cook set a Test record for a visiting batsman making 244 not out in a drawn match.
Last year’s MCG pitch earned a “very good” rating after Australia drew with India on the back of serious work by Page to address issues with the drop-in wickets.
Victorian fast bowling hero Scott Boland, who took five second innings wickets to steer his team to victory against NSW, and eight for the match, said Page had delivered a pitch that offered something for batsmen and bowlers.
“We were able to take 20 wickets, which we haven’t done here a lot in the last five years,” Boland said.
“There was also two guys get 90 in the second innings and we had two hundreds in the first innings.
“Really good wicket with carry through the whole day when a lot of the time on day four there hasn’t been.”
A Victorian second XI game will be the next match at the MCG, to be played on the new pitch.
The same wicket used for last year’s Boxing Day Test will be used for Australia’s clash against England.
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