In full swing: Adam Voges bats on and on during day two of the Second Test at the MCG. Photo: Michael DodgeCricket Australia has not received a poor rating for any Test pitch this summer despite widespread criticism curators are producing wickets heavily favoured towards the batsmen.
For the second consecutive season, bowlers have found the going difficult with massive scores the prevailing theme, though four results from five Tests is an improvement on two from four 12 months ago.
It was not a Merry Christmas for the leather-flingers in Melbourne on a track which produced only 26 wickets over four days despite the pitch resembling a green top just moments before the toss.
Less than five sessions later after a quick trim from ground staff, not to mention some poor bowling from the West Indies, Australia amassed 3-551 in their first innings.
Pitches generally become more difficult to bat on as they wear but the Australians believed the MCG strip behaved the opposite. Windies coach Phil Simmons described it as a “batsman’s paradise” after the second day.
So benign was the surface, man of the match Nathan Lyon’s haul of seven wickets was deemed superior to Steve Smith’s tally of 204 runs without dismissal or Usman Khawaja’s knocks of 144 and 56.
The trend towards docile pitches is both a sensitive topic and a cause of concern in Australian cricket.
Of the five Test wickets, only Adelaide offered encouragement to the bowlers due to the extra grass coverage to preserve the pink ball for the day-night Test.
Perth was the scene of arguably the most lop-sided contest between bat and ball. The 1672 runs scored, at a cost of nearly 60 per wicket, was the eighth highest aggregate run tally in Tests, the fourth highest in Australia and also a WACA record.
This week is SCG curator Tom Parker’s chance to buck the trend by producing a pitch asking more of the batsmen.
The venue came under heavy fire two years ago from national coach Darren Lehmann after Australia hammered a demoralised England in three days. In contrast, last summer’s Test against India finished in a stalemate with only 30 wickets falling across the five days at a cost of 52 apiece.
While both captains described the wicket as flat and slow, the pitch was graded as “good” by the ICC, Fairfax Media has learned.
“It was a well prepared pitch. As the game progressed it had variable bounce and moderate turn and there was something in it for every type of bowler,” match referee Roshan Mahanama wrote in his match review.
“Despite this marginal advantage, the batsmen too, were able to make runs. Further, the scores reflect the opportunities presented to batsmen from both teams to play relatively freely and to put up formidable score.”
Western Australia coach Justin Langer said during the Perth Test that flat tracks were “not necessarily conducive to great Australian cricket” and that curators had over-corrected a previous trend of bowler-friendly pitches.
“I will put my hand up – I think the WACA for a few years, maybe the Gabba, maybe Bellerive, went too far the other way,” Langer said.
“Maybe there were times when it was a bit of a lottery for teams batting first.
“Now it’s gone [too far] the other way. We’ve got to try to get the balance.”
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