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From 'poor' ICC rating to match abandoned: timeline of a troubled MCG pitch

A difficult two years for the MCG pitch has continued with a Sheffield Shield match abandoned

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
A difficult two years for the MCG pitch has continued with the abandonment of the Sheffield Shield match between Victoria and Western Australia. Here is a recap of the recent problems
December 2017
The Ashes Test turned into a bore draw on a pitch that started without much life and got even more lifeless. Alastair Cook enjoyed it with 244 not out, but few others gained much from spectacle. The ICC rated the pitched "poor", the first time an international surface in Australia had been given that mark, which effectively put the ground on notice over its future pitches. The pitch had been overseen at a time when the MCG was between head groundsman with Matt Page, who had been announced as David Sandurski's replacement, yet to begin his role. The 2017-18 season would finish without a single outright result in a first-class match at the MCG.
October 2018
Under Page's watch, attempts were made to bring life back to the MCG's drop-in pitches. In the first part of the domestic season there was an innings win for Victoria (during which Marnus Harris scored 250) and draws with South Australia (which would have been a positive result but for a final-day washout) and Western Australia with a good spread of totals from 159 to 445.
December 2018
Details emerged of the long-term planning being put in place by Page to try and rejuvenate the pitch, updating the old-school drop-in pitch technology used at the ground to match those used at the Adelaide Oval - which had managed to produce entertaining drop-in surfaces - and the new Perth Stadium.
"It may take us three to five years to get there, in terms of projects we want to knock off, but the Melbourne Cricket Club management have been really supportive of that and have been prepared to do whatever it takes to get to that overall goal," Page said. "What emerged was these are the sorts of wickets we want to be renowned for in terms of giving everyone a chance. How do we go about doing that? As a part of that, it was seen that we need to look at what's sitting under the wickets in the middle, how can we improve our wicket nursery, and then how do we start measuring pitch performance."
December 2018
A year on from the Ashes, the Test against India produced a result - a handsome 137-run victory for the visitors - but the pitch did not pass with flying colours. It was more the excellence of Jasprit Bumrah, with a great spell on the third day, that hastened the game forward after India had ground out 7 for 443 at 2.61 runs per over. The ICC rated the surface "average", so not at the alarming level of 12 months previous but an indication there was still work to be done.
November 2019
After extensive work leading into the 2019-2020 season, the surface for the first Sheffield Shield match of the season received positive reviews for the pace and carry on offer for the quicks while legspinner Mitchell Swepson had a big say in Queensland's victory. The match against New South Wales fizzled out into a draw because of rain over the last two days although Victoria captain Peter Handscomb believed more still needed to be done.
"[The] MCG pitch hasn't deteriorated for 10 years," he told the Age. "So I think we need to start making the game accelerate at the start of it, maybe make it a bit greener like it is in Hobart where the game accelerates at the start and then becomes a good batting wicket after that. But that's up to the groundsman and see how they go."
December 2019
The opening day of the match against Western Australia was suspended in the 40th over after batsmen repeatedly took blows on the body with deliveries rearing from a good length and the match subsequently abandoned. The issue was understood to stem from how soft the surface was when play began; the fast bowlers created divots with their deliveries which then led to uneven bounce as they hardened. This was not the pitch due to be used for the Test against New Zealand.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo