MCG Boxing Day pitch receives verdict from ICC
THE MCG's Boxing Day pitch has received full marks from the ICC, in another sign the iconic Test match is certain to remain in Melbourne.
The official stamp of approval franks the wild experiment THAT curator Matthew Page was told to conduct and which resulted in a Sheffield Shield match being abandoned due to a dangerous pitch last month.
That juiced-up deck delivered Page a benchmark for how far he could push the limits, and ground staff duly scaled back the Test pitch.
While pitch ratings are usually released only at the completion of a series, the widespread interest in the MCG meant it was fast-tracked.
The Herald Sun has confirmed that the ICC rated the Boxing Day pitch 'very good' - which is the highest of the six ratings.
The five below are; good, average, below average, poor, and unfit.
In 2018 the MCG received an "average" rating for the Test match against India, and in 2017 it was rated "poor" for the boring Ashes draw against England.
Since then the MCC has embarked on a five-year project that has already resulted in the concrete slab under the surface being removed. Pitches are now stored on a natural base.
A full renovation of the Yarra park wicket nursery, where the pitches are held, is about 50 per cent complete, and a different type of clay is also being trialled.
The ICC's tick of approval follows glowing endorsements from players.
Spinner Nathan Lyon - a veteran of nine Boxing Day Tests - said that last week's wicket was the best MCG Test pitch he had played on.
MCC chief executive Stuart Fox said: "The arena's team has always had our full confidence in producing a great Test pitch and we're pleased we've been able to deliver that this year with a top rating from the ICC.
"All credit goes to Michael Salvatore, Matt Page and the whole team, who have done a magnificent job under significant pressure. We're so proud of their efforts.
"Hopefully cricket fans understand we've been pushing the boundaries to find improvements in the MCG pitches and, while we're still on a journey, we will continue to look for ways to ensure our wickets always have the characteristics of pace, bounce and lateral movement to allow something for both bat and ball."
While the contract for the MCG to host the Boxing Day Test has expired, both Cricket Australia and the MCC say talks are progressing well.
That next contract is likely to run for the next three or four years. In the next two Boxing Day Tests, India (2020) and England (2021) return.
Stream the AUS v NZ Domain Test Series LIVE & Ad-Break Free During Play on KAYO with FOX CRICKET's unmatched commentary line-up. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly >