Not good enough: Review of lifeless MCG pitch begins

Australian captain Steve Smith declared the under-fire MCG pitch of no help to anyone on a day the Melbourne Cricket Club admitted the deck offered up during the Boxing Day Test had not been up to scratch.

Cricket officials have begun a review of the drop-in pitch described as a "bowlers' graveyard" in a bid to ensure there is no repeat.

The fourth Test ended in a draw on Saturday, with the lifeless deck providing no assistance for the bowlers and making batting even tougher.

Smith was also a roadblock for the tourists, finishing with an unbeaten ton - his third of the series - when play was called off early.

"I think it (pitch) just needs to do something. It hasn't changed over five days and I'd say if we were playing for the next couple of days it probably wouldn't change at all, either," Smith said.

"It's got to find a way to have some pace and bounce, or take some spin, or do something. Obviously, we saw a reasonable amount of reverse swing throughout the game but the ball just gets so soft so quickly because the surface is quite hard itself. It gets soft and doesn't carry through and it's really difficult to get people out.

"I don't know mind if they are flat as such. (It) just needs to have some pace and carry in them. This wicket just has none of that. It just skids through basically and, if you look at the keeper and the slips throughout the whole game, we're standing so close and I just don't think it's good for anyone."

Smith said he wasn't against drop-in pitches, pointing out the Adelaide Oval was one of the best overall decks in the country.

England captain Joe Root also said the pitch had not been up to scratch for an Ashes Test.

"I don't think it is. As a player you turn up to the game and all you can do is respond to what is there in front of you. I think we did that. Obviously, you want to see results and you want to go out and win games. Unfortunately, we weren't able to do that this week," he said.

While there had only been one draw in the past 19 Tests at the MCG heading into the latest Ashes battle, the lack of life in the pitches used in recent years, not to mention the three draws in the Sheffield Shield this season, had raised concerns about the impact on the game, and spectators.

Michael Salvatore is the acting MCG curator until WACA curator Matt Page takes charge. Page had been under fire last week in Perth when water seeped under the covers, delaying the start of the final day of the third Test match.

The lack of pace during the fourth Test was reinforced in that David Warner limping to the slowest half-century of his Test career on Saturday - off 161 balls.

Australian coach Darren Lehmann and counterpart Trevor Bayliss had said they had hoped for a quicker deck, while England spearhead James Anderson said fans had suffered because of the lack of action.

Former Australian batsman Dean Jones has labelled the pitch a "bowlers' graveyard" while former England captain Geoff Boycott has said a "timeless Test could be played on this pitch and even then I am not sure you would get a result".

MCC chief executive Stuart Fox said the pitch had also failed to deliver.

"While this Test pitch did produce a good contest, it has not contained the bounce and pace that we expected. As the game progressed, the surface did not deteriorate nor bring the level of unpredictability that was anticipated," he said.

"We review all elements of our performance at the conclusion of every event, and the quality of the pitch is no exception."

Cricket Victoria chief executive Tony Dodemaide said the pitch needed to provide "more variation".

"You want the pitch to break up, bring more players into the game, chasing runs or defending gets harder as the game goes on. I think these ones (pitches) are getting better and better, they are not breaking up. We need to talk about it, certainly," he said on ABC Radio.

"I stand to be corrected but if these are the original pitches that came into the ground, then they are probably over 10, nearly 15 years old now, and it might be the lifespan of a particular drop-in pitch might be shorter than we saw originally for the pitches that were in all year round. It might well be that we need to dig them out every so often and start again. Just that sweet spot for a pitch might be younger than what we are used to in a normal pitch."

The modern-day decks are nurtured off site and dropped into the MCG at the start of cricket season.

CA chief executive James Sutherland said this week quality pitches were "incredibly important to the future of Test cricket". A CA spokesman said on Saturday the governing body had been "disappointed" with the deck.

More than 88,000 fans showed up on Boxing Day, but thousands left disappointed midway through the final session because of a lack of contest between bat and ball, although Warner did supply an engaging century. Australia limped to 3-244 by stumps on day one.

This is Dodemaide's final summer in charge of CV. He is stepping down and will be replaced by CA executive Andrew Ingleton.

This story Not good enough: Review of lifeless MCG pitch begins first appeared on The Age.