Boxing Day Test – Melbourne Concrete and Gravel

Great to see a traditional Australian pitch for Boxing Day. Concrete.


I played on hundreds of them in parklands and country towns and rural crossroad paddocks where family farms met.


Of course, the trick with concrete pitches is deciding on the covering. Malthoid was very popular in the 60’s. A rubberised strip that played fast and true on mild summer days (both of them). When the temp got over 90 (fahrenheit – god’s own temperature – ask your parents) it got sticky and spinners could turn it square. Though the hardest to play were the crafty old seamers who could get the ball to cut around at pace. Yikes.


Matting – ropey jute or canvas – was the other variation. Straps and buckles stretched the mat (two halves with a concrete gap in the middle) out flat at taut(ish). Rock hard tight if you had quicks who liked more concrete bounce. Looser to allow grip and movement for spinners and seamers.


Of course the MCG groundsman couldn’t lay matting for this series against India. Those sub-continentals invented the stuff. Fazal Mahmood – the Maharajah of the Mat – took 13/114 as Pakistan beat Australia on the mat in Karachi in a solo Test in 1956 on our way home from an English tour. With his leg cutters and breakbacks even the great Keith Miller had no clue against Mahmood on the mat as Australia were dismissed for 80 in the first innings.


Carpet seems the modern choice for top layers. Shovelling off the protective layer of sand at the end of the footy season is a chore. Even after mum has gone over it a dozen times with the Electrolux there always seems to be more sand creeping in like the speedos in summer. Gives the wicket an abrasive ‘sandpaper’ character.


The ICC has banned our favourite home surface for this series. After we broke the pitch rules in Cape Town. The ICC only permits home cooking – no take away or BYO.


Used to be that the MCG wicket had a top layer of hard, rich, black Merri Creek soil. Can’t get the stuff any more. Harms’ tomato patch took precedence.


Personally I think we should have used Besser Blocks (ask your grandparents) as the quicks can always get one up of the cracks early. As they settle there is always some variation in levels and gaps for the spinners.


In the end Cricket Australia’s new commercial partnership with Boral and Soils ‘R Us was always going to mean some compromise and the MCG groundsman was stuck with a light layer of sand and gravel with some pine bark mulch to hold it together for the five days.


India should bat to lunch on Day 4. Declare at 600 to give Pujara time to get his century. The heat and heavy roller could have an effect on the surface by then.


Batting could be dangerous by the last day. Gravel rash and splinters.


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  1. Absolutely brilliant,PB possibly the most accurate satire I have ever read

  2. Well said PB. I concur with the good folk of Auralia, wondering why those pesky Vics get the Boxing Day test regularly. Even the crowds are down, just 73, 516 on the first day. Compare that to the last test match held in Perth where there were circa 80,000 spectators. Yes it was over 5 days compared to 1 but hey, let’s not let the facts stand in the way of a good story.

    Surely the wonderful mines from your mighty state of Eastern-South Africa could produce a far more suitable pitch material than the rubbish provided in the Melbourne. You know that place, your team on a flag there.

    If this is not possible, maybe a gathering of like mind such as Prince Leonard of Hut, Alfred Chandler and Keith Watson, etc, then the good folk of Eastern South Africa can finally break free from the yolk of Australia.

    Look forward to their direction in 2019


  3. Couldn’t have put it better myself. What a great job our bowlers did. Another superb spell from Lyon – pity he received little support from his field, 3 dropped catches no less, not to mention that contentious 3 metre rule for lbw decisions. As the day neared its closure the Aussies’ body language wasn’t looking all that flash. With a little bit of luck perhaps we can occupy the crease for the final 3 days and bore the Indians like they’ve bored us..

  4. Tony Greig, a big advocate for attractive cricket, described Bill Lawry as a corpse wearing pads whilst batting. He was also nor impressed with the batting of Geoff Boycott. I wonder what he would make of the way the current test players grind out the runs, often at less than a run an over. At the moment it seems that India and Australia are trying to out bore each other. I will admit I would rather see the Aussies grind away than collapse in a heap as they so often do. Hopefully, should I fall asleep from the sheer excitement, a wicket or two won’t fall.

  5. Well Fisho, like you i was hoping we’d grind away trying to out bore the Indians. When both openers fall in the first hour a collapse in a heap is on the cards.

    Prove me wrong.


  6. Luke Reynolds says

    A couple of clubs still had malthoid pitches when I started playing junior cricket, the black cherries looked awful on your bat!

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