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AFP
December 24, 2018

Don’t judge MCG pitch by its grass cover: Harris

Sports

AFP
December 24, 2018

MELBOURNE: No-one has spent more time batting on the MCG's hotly-debated pitches this season than Marcus Harris, and he has counselled his team-mates not to judge the surface by the expected preponderance of green grass geared towards ensuring a result after last year's bore draw during the Ashes series.

Harris got the fright of his life when he saw the pitch for the Sheffield Shield match, admitting now that he expected the game between Victoria and New South Wales to be over in "a day and a half", before proceeding to sculpt a monumental 250 not out that played a major role in vaulting him into the Test team.

As a result, Harris is expecting slow scoring but the opportunity for runs to be made by batsmen diligent enough to play within their lanes. "Pre-match when I saw the wicket I was really freaked out and I thought 'this game's going to be over in a day and a half and we've got blokes trying to vie for Test spots', so I went into the game with no expectations on myself and the wicket actually played pretty well," Harris told ESPNcricinfo. "It was relatively slow and stayed together.

"I saw this morning the wicket will probably be more similar to the South Australia game, where it had a bit more green grass on it, nipped around a bit but it was one of those wickets where if you play well you can make runs but if you bowl well you can take wickets.

"I think it'll be the same old thing of patience, the MCG is never a really quick scoring ground anyway, so that'll be the key, just realising things will take a while to evolve. Not sure the wicket will break up too much, but we'll just have to wait and see. Fortunately we've probably got the best bowling attack in the world so that looks after itself a little bit, but I think as batters a patience game will be the key and run rates won't be as quick as what you'd like, but that's the way it will be."

Like Harris, the MCG curator Matt Page is a former West Australian transplanted to the other side of the continent, now charged with ensuring the storied stadium has pitches to match its overall reputation. "We want to provide an opportunity for everyone," Page said. "Whether it's the spinners, it's the pace bowlers, or the batters. Providing them opportunities to be able to produce their world-class [skills] throughout a game, whether that's quickies at the front, batters in the middle, spinners towards the end. It's producing a pitch that everyone can show what they can do.

"I think this one will be very similar to the South Australian game which we were probably happy with the most. We were unlucky not to get a result through rain, but there seemed to be a bit there for everyone; a bit there for the quicks, a couple of guys scored hundreds and the feedback we got from that game was really positive. I know we are still three days out but are looking at a wicket that will be similar to that."

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