A slow MCG pitch that produced an attritional first day’s play in the Boxing Day Test between Australia and India has been the subject of considerable criticism.
India finished day one on 215-2, having scored at 2.41 runs per over through the day, but it wasn’t the scoring rate itself that prompted criticism. The pitch offered neither pace nor seam movement, whilst there was next to no swing with the Kookaburra ball in the hot, sunny conditions. The lack of pace in the wicket also made it difficult for India’s batsmen to score quickly.
The MCG pitch for last year’s Boxing Day Test against England was similarly slow, with Alastair Cook scoring 244, the highest score at the ground by an overseas batsman. Since that game, a new system of demerit points has come in, with a ground facing losing the right to host international cricket if it accumulates five or more in a five-year rolling period. Had the system been in place this time last year, the MCG’s ‘poor’ rating would have seen it given three demerit points.
Despite the conditions, Australia’s bowlers stuck to their task admirably. All four of their seamers had an economy rate of 2.50 runs per over or less, with Mitchell Marsh particularly impressing with figures of 15-3-23-0.
After such a wonderful test match in Perth due to a lively wicket you would have thought MCG authorities would have learnt ..but no.Test cricket needs exciting fast bowling to survive. As a fan,there is nothing better to watch. So disappointing the pitch gave the bowlers nothing.
— NickMcCallum7 (@NickMcCallum7) December 26, 2018
Pat Cummins, whose extra pace and bounce helped him take the day’s only two wickets told Fox Cricket at the close of play: “Yeah tough going. There wasn’t much on offer. Especially this morning. There wasn’t really any sideways or bounce or pace.”
A host of players and journalists were quick to criticise the pitch online, with some comparing it to the lively pitch in Perth in the second Test that was given an ‘average’ rating by the ICC.
The ICC rated the Perth Test Pitch Average … Give me that over the MCG pitch any day of the week !!!!!!! #AUSvIND
— Michael Vaughan (@MichaelVaughan) December 26, 2018
— Glenn Maxwell (@Gmaxi_32) December 26, 2018
While pictures of the pitch circulated on social media before the match led some to believe the pitch would be helpful to bowlers, Victorian Marcus Harris words before the Test that the “patience game will be key” ultimately proved prophetic.
There is some cause for optimism though as Cummins stated that pitch did seem to liven up towards the end of the day. He said: “It got a little bit quicker towards the end of the day but not a lot in it for us bowlers and they batted pretty well.”
Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara will resume day two on 47 and 68 respectively.