'Optimistic': CA expecting 'different' MCG pitch for Boxing Day Test

Cricket Australia is pleased with the progress being made on the maligned MCG pitch ahead of the Boxing Day Test and confident the MCC will deliver a suitable playing surface.

Preparation began over the weekend on a separate strip to the one deemed too dangerous to play on in a Sheffield Shield match that was abandoned earlier this month.

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Too much moisture in that wicket led to divots hardened by the baking sun, raising fears over the safety of batsmen as good-length balls rose sharply and unpredictably.

CA chief executive Kevin Roberts backed MCG curator Matt Page to produce a good pitch for the second Australia-New Zealand Test, and expected a grassier wicket than in recent Boxing Day contests.

Officials are seen speaking with the curator as play is abandoned due to an unsafe pitch prior to the start of day two of the Sheffield Shield match between Victoria and Western Australia at Melbourne Cricket Ground on December 08, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Mike Owen/Getty Images)

"We're really keen to ensure that the MCC doesn't overreact to the situation in the last Shield game," Roberts said on Wednesday.

"The great news was that no players were injured in that situation and we learnt a lot from it.

"They're not overreacting and Matt Page is a master of his craft.

"We're looking forward to him expressing that with his team in the Boxing Day pitch.

"We're really confident that there won't be an overreaction and that we'll see a better balance between bat and ball at the MCG."

This shows the ground before the start of play on day four of the third cricket test between India and Australia in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018. (AP Photo/Asanka Brendon Ratnayake)

Page, the former WACA curator, was headhunted by the MCC two years ago to fix a flat deck that has offered little for bowlers in recent summers.

An internal directive from the MCC to push the boundaries with pitch preparation and bring life to the wicket, led to this month's Shield debacle.

"The condition of pitches at the MCG has been on a significant increase over the last period of time since Matt and the team took the concrete base out from underneath the pitches and replaced it with sand," Roberts said.

"The feedback from the curators is that it feels different to roll, the feedback from the players is that it feels different and even sounds different to play on.

"It sounds like a proper turf wicket now, rather than something that's more like a concrete deck, so we're really optimistic about Boxing Day."

Roberts pushing for day-night Test

Meanwhile, Roberts remains hopeful Australia will host at least one day-night Test in the four-match series against India next summer.

Negotiations are ongoing, with a schedule for the 2020/21 season likely to be confirmed in April.

Roberts welcomed the battle between five mainland states vying to win rights to host India, with the loser set to be handed a one-off Test against cricket minnows Afghanistan.

Roberts was speaking on Wednesday at the announcement of a new deal between CA and Toyota, which will see the car manufacturer provide cricket equipment for 100 junior girls' teams.