Melbourne pitch fails to pass the Test

Under fire: The Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Under fire: The Melbourne Cricket Ground.
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The MCG pitch used for the Boxing Day Ashes Test has been rated poor by the International Cricket Council.

The heavily-criticised surface produced a dull draw, with minimal pace and bounce on offer and a lack of deterioration thwarting England’s attempts to force a first win of the series.

Australia scored 327 and 263-4 declared – with Steve Smith and Mitchell Marsh comfortably batting out the last two sessions – and England making 491 in their only innings.

The ICC pitch and outfield monitoring process has now returned a verdict of “poor” on the Melbourne surface, after ICC match referee Ranjan Madugalle submitted a report expressing the concerns of the match officials over the performance of the pitch. Cricket Australia have 14 days to respond to the report.

Madugalle 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. 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 gave the bowlers sufficient opportunity to take wickets.”

More than 260,000 fans attended over the five days but former England captain Michael Vaughan was among several experts who did not mince their words and wrote on Twitter: “Let’s be honest – this pitch is a stinker for Test cricket.”

Current captain Joe Root described it as “very unresponsive” in comments which prompted MCG authorities to announce a review of preparation methods, while even Australia captain Smith was critical, despite his second-innings century.

“I don’t think it’s good for anyone,” said Smith afterwards.

“I think it just needs to do something. It hasn’t changed over five days, and if we were playing for the next couple of days it probably wouldn’t have changed at all either.”