Quality of wicket at Blacktown called into question as play is called off at lunch on day two
Tour match abandoned after pitch concerns
The three-day tour match between Cricket Australia XI and New Zealand has been sensationally abandoned after just four sessions with the Blacktown pitch deemed unfit for play.
The CA XI amassed a record-breaking 1-503 inside 122 overs prior to lunch on day two, but when Ryan Carters was dismissed for 209 and his captain Ashton Turner declared, the two teams and the umpires walked off together, shaking hands and bidding farewell.
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Uncertainty reigned as whispers of a double declaration by the visitors filled the air, the pitch later likened by Black Caps coach Mike Hesson to a four-day wicket in Abu Dhabi.
Image Id: ~/media/794C2A1B32A245C28A905E7616A1F596
The Blacktown pitch at lunch on day two // Getty Images
Black Caps officials, including captain Brendon McCullum, coach Hesson and their team manager, and their CA XI counterparts met with match referee Bob Stratford and standing umpires Paul Wilson and Jon Ward during the lunch break to determine the outcome of the match.
The parties separated before official word came through from Cricket Australia that the match was abandoned.
"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 Cricket Australia Head of Cricket 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 Black Caps will now fly to Brisbane on Saturday, the scheduled third day of the match, and will train at Allan Border Field on Sunday before holding sessions at the Gabba on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The first Test starts on Thursday.
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The Blacktown International Sports Park pitch was showing signs of dryness and cracking prior to day one, with the heavy hessian cover remaining on the playing surface up until the toss half an hour before the first ball was bowled.
WATCH: Finch, Carters flay NZ's part-timers on day two
By the end of the first day, New Zealand had failed to take a wicket, with large chunks of turf having been dislodged across the wicket, most notably in the popping crease and bowlers' follow-throughs.
In the morning, with Finch and Carters resuming on 0-376, McCullum refused to operate his express fast bowlers, instead bowling medium pacer Jimmy Neesham for four overs and spin from Mark Craig and a fleet of part-timers.
Hesson described the surface as "a jigsaw with half the pieces missing".
"I think we saw last night when the new ball was taken the ball took some pretty big hunks out of the surface," Hesson said.
"At that time, and turning up this morning and seeing that the pitch had deteriorated even further, we decided it was in the best interest of player safety to bowl spinners.
"And when they declared we didn't want to put ourselves in a position to bat on that surface and both teams agreed it was unsafe for first-class cricket."
Finch, who scored his maiden first-class double-century in his sublime knock of 288, and Carters, who also scored a career-high 209, punished New Zealand on the dead track that offered no assistance to the bowlers.
The pair combined for the highest first-class opening partnership in Australia, surpassing Ernie Mayes and Bill Ponsford's 456 for Victoria at the MCG 92 years ago.
"It was a good toss to win," Finch said yesterday. "The wicket started to deteriorate pretty badly towards the end of the day so it was nice to get a few under my belt before that started happening."
The match was originally set for a four day contest before it was shortened by a day to allow the visitors an extra day in Brisbane ahead of the first Commonwealth Bank Test at the Gabba starting Thursday.
WATCH: Day one highlights, CA XI v NZ