The docile North Sydney Oval pitch has come under fire after the historic day-night Women’s Ashes Test meandered to a draw on Sunday evening.
Across the four days only 21 wickets were taken, while the 934 total runs that were scored in the match took 387 overs to accumulate on a wicket that offered practically no assistance to the bowlers.
England captain Heather Knight and second-drop Georgia Elwiss batted 63 overs in their 117-run partnership on day four to defy Australia’s push for a win, ensure the draw and keeping the series alive.
Commenting on the pitch in the wake of the stalemate, which was called off an hour early with no result deemed possible by the opposing captains, Australia coach Matthew Mott revealed he was apprehensive about the playing surface in the lead-up to the match.
“We played on a wicket here last year – which is why we brought the game here – against South Africa that had pace and bounce,” Mott said.
“Whether the conditions conspired against us – there was a threat of rain early – the wicket was prepared quite early.
“I did have my concerns before the game. It was a pretty dry, lifeless surface.
“I don’t think it was perfect for the game that both teams wanted to play, but I’m not sure how much you can change that.”
England counterpart Mark Robinson said he could not understand why the match was played on a used pitch for the sole Test match in the multi-format series.
“Anybody who was in England for the World Cup, we had fresh wickets – it makes such a difference,” Robinson said.
“Coffs Harbour, that was a proper wicket, it was a great wicket.
“That’d have been perfect. It had bounce, it had carry.
“I spoke to one of the Aussie coaches at our practice game at Blacktown, which was unfortunately mosaic and ruining the ball as well, and he said in the men’s cricket over here they leave a grass on (the wicket) and it’s as much to protect the ball, to stop the ball going black and chinking off as well.
“We’ve got to understand our product, haven’t we?
“We’ve got to entertain people. You want all these 12,000 people to come back next time we come over … we’re in the entertainment business at the end of the day, aren’t we, and we need the people to come in.”
Robinson added: “They’ve got a young leg-spinner, she needs bounce.
“You’ve got (Ellyse) Perry, (Katherine) Brunt, I take my hat off to (Megan) Schutt, all of them ran in hard, didn’t they?
“Sometimes you want them to deserve better.
“We made such big strides as a women’s game and there’s one or two strides still to come.”
Entering the final day, Australia was the only team with a plausible chance of victory after Perry batted England into submission with a record-breaking 213no, the third-highest score in Women’s Tests and the best by an Australian.
But despite the remarkable feat by Perry and the Australian support cast, the flat pitch made taking the 10 English wickets the hosts needed for victory virtually impossible.
“To think yesterday (Saturday) was a great day of Test cricket and I think we injected a lot of life into the game and unfortunately today (Sunday), with the conditions the way they were, it was always going to be a hard slog,” Mott said.
“We tried everything, we tried all the bowlers we could, tried different tactics but unfortunately it was a pretty benign surface and they (England’s batters) really had to make a few mistakes to let us back in the game.
“Credit to them, they did what they had to do. They were well out of the game and couldn’t win it but we knew it was a hard slog.
“I’m not sure how many overs we needed to bowl them out on that wicket but apparently that wasn’t enough.”
The same pitch will be used on Friday for the first T20 international before the series concludes in Canberra with the final two matches at Manuka Oval.
Australia need only one win to retain the Women’s Ashes, while England require a series whitewash to reclaim the trophy.
Commonwealth Bank Women's Ashes
Australia lead England 6-4
Australia squad (ODI and Test): Rachael Haynes (C), Alex Blackwell (VC), Kristen Beams, Nicole Bolton, Lauren Cheatle, Ashleigh Gardner, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Tahlia McGrath, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Belinda Vakarewa (Test only), Elyse Villani, Amanda-Jade Wellington.
England squad: Heather Knight (c), Tammy Beaumont, Katherine Brunt, Sophie Ecclestone, Georgia Elwiss, Jenny Gunn, Alex Hartley, Danielle Hazell, Laura Marsh, Anya Shrubsole, Sarah Taylor, Nat Sciver, Fran Wilson, Lauren Winfield, Danielle Wyatt.
First ODI Australia won by two wickets
Second ODI Australia won by 75 runs (DLS method)
Third ODI England won by 20 runs (DLS method)
Day-Night Test Match drawn
First T20 North Sydney Oval, November 17
North Sydney Charity Partner: McGrath Foundation
Second T20 Manuka Oval, November 19
Third T20 Manuka Oval, November 21
Canberra Charity Partner: Lord's Taverners ACT