Ashes venue caught in cross-code drama

CA given assurances about the Gabba for the Ashes as Chris Hartley defends curator Kevin Mitchell Jr

CEO James Sutherland says Cricket Australia has received assurances from Stadiums Queensland that the Gabba's centre-wicket square will be ready to go for next summer's Ashes opener, after the venue was deemed unsafe for the AFL Women's grand final on Saturday.

Brisbane Lions won the right to host the final after going through the regular AFLW season undefeated, however damage to sections of the square from the recent Adele concert led an independent review to determine the surface unsafe.

"This is a very unfortunate situation to be dealing with," Sutherland said in a statement.

"As long-term tenants of the Gabba, we’re very sympathetic to the Brisbane Lions and the AFL’s situation.

"It’s never ideal to have to move a fixture, particularly given how successful the AFL Women’s competition has been.

"The centre area of the ground is incredibly important for both our sports – and together with the AFL, we will be looking to engage with Stadiums Queensland about future major events at the Gabba, to ensure the turf isn’t compromised in this way again.

"Since the recent damage to the centre wicket block, we’ve had very constructive talks with Stadiums Queensland and have been given reassurances from them on the quality of the pitch for the first Test of the Ashes.

"The Test series will be the biggest sporting event in Australia this year, and we look forward to welcoming fans from all over the world to Queensland when we host another record crowd at the Australian cricket team’s traditional fortress, the Gabba."

While some criticism was directed towards the Gabba groundstaff with regards to the current state of the centre wicket, and at suggestions that eight months were needed to prepare for the Ashes, recently-retired Queensland wicketkeeper-batsman Chris Hartley jumped to the defence of curator Kevin Mitchell Jr.

"What disappoints me about what's happening is we've got a guy who's been curating at the Gabba for decades, and he's the only one who is an expert on how a pitch needs to be prepared," Hartley said.

"For some reason we've got politicians and administrators in the AFL suggesting the wicket is going to be fine for the Ashes (even if they'd played the AFLW grand final at the Gabba).

"I'm not sure how many pitches they've prepared in their lives, but I'd be listening to the guy who has been making the best cricket wicket in the world for the past 20 years, and be working with him and trying to make his job a little bit easier."