For the first time since 1987, Australia and New Zealand will lock horns on Boxing Day.
For the first time since 1987, Australia and New Zealand will lock horns on Boxing Day.

Cricket greats slams Boxing Day ‘disgrace’

THE Boxing Day Test has been under the microscope in recent weeks thanks to the pitch causing all sorts of dramas.

But two greats of the game are more upset about how long it has taken for the Kiwis to return to the famed Test match time slot.

For the first time since 1987, New Zealand will take on the Aussies at the MCG in what will be the second Test in their three-Test series.

Former Kiwi wicketkeeper Ian Smith and Aussie pace bowler Mike Whitney can't believe it has been so long between drinks for the two nations.

"It's wrong," Smith told foxsports.com.au.

"We've had some very good cricket teams that would have tested Australia and so I think it's been quite odd."

Whitney backed up Smith's comments, but delivered his choice of words in a more stinging manner.

"I can't believe Australia and New Zealand haven't played a Boxing Day Test since that time," Whitney said.

"That's a disgrace.

Focus heading into the second Test has centred around the state of the much-maligned pitch following a Sheffield Shield match that was abandoned due to a dangerous surface.

Legendary pitch whisperer Les Burdett was brought in to lend a hand and has given the wicket his emphatic seal of approval less than a week out from the Boxing Day Test.

Officials attend to the MCG pitch following the Sheffield Shield match.
Officials attend to the MCG pitch following the Sheffield Shield match.

Following the Sheffield Shield debacle, Burdett, the highly respected curator at Adelaide Oval for 40 years and adviser with Cricket Australia, was brought in to supervise Test preparations.

After surveying the pitch prepared by MCG curator Matt Page, Burdett is not only confident the wicket will be safe, but that it will also make for an entertaining contest.

"The initiatives done for this year, I never say 100 per cent on anything, but I'm 99.99 per cent sure that this is going to be a Test Match worth watching because the situation has changed," Burdett told reporters on Friday.

"It just looks healthy ... I can walk down the side of that pitch now and it just has the goods.

"(They're) going to leave a bit of grass on there.

"You'll have a pitch that has more life in it than in years gone by because the characteristics and the structure of it has changed."

The strip being prepared for the Boxing Day Test is not the same one that was deemed unsafe due to uneven bounce that resulted in several WA batsmen being hit by balls rearing up off a good length.

That situation arose after Page watered the pitch more than he usually would, in a bid to produce a more lively wicket as he was urged to by CA and venue operators the MCC.

But a change in weather conditions left the pitch too wet, creating dangerous divots in the wicket as it dried.

The pitch caused the match to be called off.
The pitch caused the match to be called off.

It continued a disappointing run for a wicket square widely criticised for producing lifeless, flat surfaces that allow batsmen to dominate. The pitch was given a "poor" rating by the ICC following the drawn Boxing Day Test against England in 2017.

But alterations have been made under the surface of the centre wicket, with the underpinning concrete slab removed.

- with AAP

News Corp Australia


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