Visitors denied practice before the first test after the game was stopped due to deteriorating pitch
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA: New Zealand’s warm-up match against Cricket Australia XI was abandoned Friday over a pitted and deteriorating pitch described as “rolled mud”, leaving the tourists searching for more practice ahead of next week’s opening Test.
Stumps were drawn by the umpires during the lunch interval on day two of the three-day game at Blacktown, Sydney, when the CA XI declared their record first innings at 503 for one.
The Black Caps had been due to bat in reply in their final build-up game ahead of the first Test against Australia, starting in Brisbane on November 5.
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The highly unusual abandonment seriously disrupts New Zealand’s preparations for the Test series opener, with last-minute arrangements now being made to allow for extra practice.
New Zealand was far from amused over the state of the pitch and the loss of valuable batting time ahead of the Gabba series opener against Steve Smith’s Australians.
Coach Mike Hesson slammed the Blacktown pitch in Sydney’s west as “rolled mud” and “a jigsaw puzzle with half the pieces missing”.
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“They’re unable to grow any grass here at this time of the year so it was basically like rolled mud with a little topping on it,” Hesson told reporters after the abandonment.
“As it dried it baked and bits started falling out of it. It was going to last for a period of time but when the second new ball came on last night, once you start taking hunks out of the surface that’s when it becomes unsuitable.
“We’ve just had two days here and haven’t gained a lot out of it from a preparation point of view other than time on our feet.
“I’d describe it as a jigsaw with half the pieces missing.”
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Cricket Australia (CA) said both teams had agreed to abandon the match because of the state of the pitch.
“The decision has been agreed between the two teams to abandon the match due to the wicket’s deteriorating surface becoming unfit for first-class cricket,” said CA’s head of operations Sean Cary.
“Preparation of the wicket was compromised by poor weather conditions in Sydney early this week.
“In response, we’re working with New Zealand Cricket to provide alternative preparation for the team ahead of next week’s first Test.”
The CA XI declared their first innings shortly before lunch after Aaron Finch hit 288 not out and Ryan Carters 209 to set an Australian record for a first-class match opening partnership.
The stand surpassed the previous record of 456 back in the 1923-24 season by Victoria’s Bill Ponsford and Edgar Mayne against Queensland at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
The tour match was originally scheduled as a four-day fixture before it was reduced to three days so New Zealand could travel to Brisbane for the first Test earlier than originally planned.
All but one Black Caps player, wicket-keeper BJ Watling, bowled in the 121-over innings as Finch and Carters blazed away.
Star New Zealand quick Tim Southee bowled only three overs in the innings due to a stomach complaint, while no New Zealand seamer bowled on day two as concerns over the pitch mounted.