MCG pitch branded poor by match referee

Rob Forsaith
The MCG pitch used for the fourth Test has been labelled poor by the ICC

The MCG has suffered the ignominy of producing the first Australian Test pitch to be dubbed poor by the International Cricket Council.

The ICC has joined the chorus of condemnation levelled at the docile drop-in deck produced for the fourth Ashes Test, with match referee Ranjan Madugalle rating it poor in his post-match report.

The sport's global governing body has put Cricket Australia (CA) on notice about the surface that hardly broke up at all as Australia and England battled to a dull draw.

"Such a rating is extremely disappointing for all involved," CA chief executive James Sutherland said in a statement.

"We'll be taking on board advice from the ICC, players and relevant experts to work with the Melbourne Cricket Club to ensure this rating is not repeated."

CA now has a fortnight to respond to the stinging critique.

The ICC's final punishment is expected to be lenient but it could range from a formal warning for CA to a fine of $US15,000 (approximately $A19,000).

Skippers Steve Smith and Joe Root plus many pundits criticised the pitch, which the Melbourne Cricket Club (MCC) has already confirmed is the subject of a review.

"It hasn't changed over five days and I'd say if we were playing for the next couple of days it wouldn't change at all," Smith said after scoring an unbeaten ton on day five.

"I just don't think it's good for anyone."

Madugalle agreed.

"The bounce of the MCG pitch was medium, but slow in pace and got slower as the match progressed," the match referee said.

"The nature of the pitch did not change over the five days and there was no natural deterioration.

"The pitch did not allow an even contest between the bat and the ball."

The MCC has been embarrassed by the saga but can take solace from the fact it hosted the last Test to be played under an old set of punitive measures for poor pitches.

A new demerit-points system has been introduced that can result in venues being barred from hosting international cricket for up to two years.

Grounds now receive two points for a below average pitch, three for a poor strip and five for an unfit wicket.

Venues will be suspended for a year if they receive five points in a five-year period, or for two years if they accrue 10 points.

Matthew Page recently left the WACA after being appointed MCG curator but he was not involved in preparing the Test pitch.

It was the second time in 2017 that Australia played a Test on a pitch that was rated poor, with the other occasion coming in February.

That Pune wicket, on which Steve O'Keefe claimed a haul of 12-70 as he spun the tourists to their first win in India since 2004, was likened to "the surface of Mars" by Shane Warne.

Warne was also among the MCG deck's detractors, saying on day one it "looks as flat as I've seen a pitch here".