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Curator Matt Page is happy with the way the MCG pitch is shaping up for the Boxing Day Test. Image by Scott Barbour/AAP PHOTOS
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Unpredictable Perth pitch won’t influence MCG’s plans

Oliver Caffrey December 21, 2023

A deteriorating pitch in Perth will not influence how the MCG wicket is prepared for the Boxing Day Test.

Pakistan, who were thrashed by 360 runs at Optus Stadium last week, got their first look at the Melbourne venue on Thursday as they desperately try to snap a 15-Test winless streak in Australia.

The tourists trained at the MCG ahead of their two-day game against a Victorian XI at the Junction Oval in St Kilda, starting on Friday.

Pakistan were rolled for just 89 in their second innings in Perth, with Australia’s batters also finding the pitch increasingly difficult to handle.

Marnus Labuschagne, who was cleared of damage to his right hand, Usman Khawaja and Mitch Marsh all suffered blows when batting in the second innings.

labuschagne
 Marnus Labuschagne required treatment after being hit in the second innings of the Pakistan Test. Image by Richard Wainwright/AAP PHOTOS 

MCG head curator Matt Page knocked back any suggestion the pitch could be prepared differently after the late carnage in the Western Australian capital.

“We’ve been pretty happy where we’ve been at the last four years,” Page said on Thursday.

“We’re trying to produce something that is going to produce an exciting Test match, as much pace and bounce in it as we can get for Melbourne.

“A bit of seam movement, and then if we get some footholds and bring the spinners in at the back of the game, then that’ll be job done for us and we’ll be pretty happy.”

After the infamously dull 2017 Ashes draw, when the MCG pitch copped a “poor” rating from the International Cricket Council, the last five Boxing Day Tests have all produced a winner.

Weather could be a factor early in the Test with up to five millimetres of rain expected on Tuesday after 20 mms is forecast to fall in Melbourne on Christmas Day.

The MCG has hosted two Sheffield Shield games this season with both those pitches offering plenty of spice for the bowlers.

“In terms of pace and bounce, that’s absolutely what we’re trying to achieve for the Test pitch. 

“We’ve been happy with where we’ve been at, weather has not been ideal for those Shield pitches, but we’ve all been building towards this. 

“The Shield games are important for us in sort of tweaking and fine tuning what we’re trying to do.”

Melbourne Cricket Club boss Stuart Fox is hoping for a crowd of up to 180,000 for the whole Test and 70,000 people to turn out on day one.

Even though Pakistan have been largely uncompetitive in recent Tests in Australia their team does enjoy solid support in Melbourne and Sydney.

“The (T20) World Cup here (in 2022) when we saw that game between India and Pakistan, it’s probably one of the greatest moments I’ve ever seen in the stadium,” Fox said.

“You’d hope the Pakistan community in Victoria and Australia come and support the game.”