New Zealand tour game abandoned over pitch concerns
Match abandoned Cricket Australia XI 1 for 503 dec (Finch 288*, Carters 209) v New Zealanders
Pitch concerns raised by the New Zealand touring team have led to the abandonment of their tour match against a Cricket Australia XI at Blacktown Oval in Sydney's west.
The CA XI waltzed to 1 for 503 off the back of a stand of the same number between Aaron Finch and Ryan Carters - a new record stand for all first-class cricket in Australia - however ESPNcricinfo understands that the tourists were concerned by a pair of deliveries that reared off a length late on day one when they took the second new ball.
New Zealand's captain Brendon McCullum did not use his pace bowlers at all on the second morning of the fixture, leaving Finch and Carters to canter along on a bone dry surface. However when Carters was dismissed 20 minutes before lunch and the CA XI declared, play did not resume after the usual 10-minute interval and stumps were eventually drawn about an hour later.
A series of on-field conferences were held between officials, umpires, ground staff and coaches, and the CA XI players departed the venue soon after. New Zealand have requested centre-wicket practice at another venue in Sydney on Saturday.
"The decision has been agreed between the two teams to abandon the match due to the wicket's deteriorating surface becoming unfit for first-class cricket," CA's head of operations Sean Cary said. "Preparation of the wicket was compromised by poor weather conditions in Sydney early this week.
"In response, we're working with New Zealand Cricket to provide alternative preparation for the team ahead of next week's first Test."
This match had already been downsized from a four-day match to a three-day fixture at the tourists' request, and there were even discussions about reducing it further to a two-day contest that would result in the match being stripped of first-class status.
Having played on a trio of pitches each drier and deader than the last, McCullum's men have become understandably eager to get to Brisbane and prepare in conditions more relevant to their looming challenges at the Gabba than anything they have faced in Canberra and western Sydney so far.
Not helping the tourists is the fact that save for their opening Prime Minister's XI match, local sides have won the toss and chosen to bat first. On Australia's recent Ashes tour - whether by good fortune or design - Australia won the toss and got the chance to bat first in all their pre-series warm-up games.
New Zealand's unhappiness at the surface adds another level of niggle to the series, after the players were compelled to suppress their objections to playing in the first day/night Test match in order to help secure a lucrative new bilateral touring agreement with Australia after a recent paucity of fixtures between the two nations.
When Australia tour New Zealand in a return series next year, a Sheffield Shield fixture between New South Wales and Western Australia will be played at NZ Cricket headquarters in Lincoln, just outside Christchurch, as a way of allowing numerous Test match players to prepare at the same time as limited-overs matches are being played in Australia. It remains to be seen what sort of pitch will be prepared.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig