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Controversy looms over wet Perth pitch

Rain ends up on Perth pitch ahead of crucial final day, leading to a delayed start

Australia's push for an Ashes-sealing win on the fifth and final day at the WACA Ground is finally underway after 28 overs were lost due to rain and a wet wicket.

A combination of heavy rain and a damp hessian cover caused certain parts of the pitch to become soft, most notably on a good length at the Lillee-Marsh Stand End.

The WACA Ground ground staff used leaf blowers and the heavy roller to combat the issue, as captains from both sides engaged in conversation with the match officials.

After a delay of three hours, play eventually resumed with Australia needing six more wickets to regain the Ashes while England, 127 runs behind at the start of play, must avoid defeat to keep the series alive.


EARLIER

Australia's push for a win on the fifth and final day at the WACA Ground has been dampened by rain and a wet wicket.

It’s understood a combination of heavy rain and a damp hessian cover has caused certain parts of the pitch to become soft, most notably on a good length at the Lillee-Marsh Stand End.

The WACA Ground ground staff used leaf blowers and the heavy roller to combat the issue, as captains from both sides engaged in conversation with the match officials.

"The ground staff are working through the process of trying to dry that but at the moment it's fairly soft so it's a wait and see process at the moment," umpire Chris Gaffaney told Wide World of Sports having confirmed the start of play had been delayed.

"It's got to be the same for both sides and at this stage we believe the pitch has been altered overnight.

"So once the boys do their job hopefully we'll get underway as soon as we can."

Australia need six more wickets to regain the Ashes while England, 127 runs behind at the start of play, must avoid defeat to keep the series alive.

England coach Trevor Bayliss inspects the WACA wicket // Getty
England coach Trevor Bayliss inspects the WACA wicket // Getty

"Whatever the umpires say we’ll do,” England coach Trevor Bayliss told WWOS.

"At the moment there’s a few soft spots in the wicket. We’re more than prepared to come out and play if we can get it as close as we can to yesterday.

"Needs a bit more wind and some sun, I’d say.

"It’s unfortunate, really. It was going to be good day of cricket and it still may be.

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"We had a chat about being focused and ready to when we get out there."

Australia coach Darren Lehmann is confident the wicket will be fit for play at some stage today.

"Hopefully it’s pretty quick (drying out) and away we go,” Lehmann told WWOS.

"It looks pretty good to be fair, the umpires will have to make the call. It’s an unfortunate thing but we just have to get on with it.

Day wrap: Aussies six wickets from Ashes win

"Once we get on, get it in the right areas and let the wicket do its work. We’ve been good so far we just need to finish it off."

Former England captain Geoffrey Boycott is not impressed that the nature of the pitch has been changed.

"They cocked up,” Boycott said of the groundstaff on BBC. "It's their job to make sure it's secure – it's as simple as that.

WACA Ground staff working hard to dry out the wet pitch // Getty
WACA Ground staff working hard to dry out the wet pitch // cricket.com.au

"They have made a big, big error. It's no good saying the wind blew the covers off. Do it better.

"With the amount of covering that's around in world cricket, they have got everything – tarpaulins that cover the whole square. The covers we have in England are fantastic."

Former England spinner Graeme Swann said the groundstaff faced an uphill battle to get the pitch ready for play.

The two captains and the two umpires in the middle of the WACA // cricket.com.au
The two captains and the two umpires in the middle of the WACA // cricket.com.au

"I’d be saying to the umpires it’s just not fit, and I know that’s what the England team are saying, they’re not happy at all," Swann told BT Sport.

"There are wet, soft spots, the problem is some bits of the wicket are still fairly hard and some are soft. So it’s the inconsistency that they’re trying to dry out now.

"This is like trying to defrost a turkey under the hot tap, I don’t see it’s going to work at all.

"But they have to do something, if anything that will just make it crusty."

More to come

Steve Smith inspects the pitch // cricket.com.au
Steve Smith inspects the pitch // cricket.com.au

2017-18 International Fixtures

Magellan Ashes Series

Australia Test squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh, Tim Paine (wk), Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, Jackson Bird.

England Test squad: Joe Root (c), James Anderson (vc), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Gary Ballance, Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Mason Crane, Tom Curran, Ben Foakes, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ben Stokes, Mark Stoneman, James Vince, Chris Woakes.

First Test Australia won by 10 wickets. Scorecard

Second Test Australia won by 120 runs (Day-Night). Scorecard

Third Test WACA Ground, December 14-18. Tickets

Fourth Test MCG, December 26-30. Tickets

Fifth Test SCG, January 4-8 (Pink Test). Tickets

Gillette ODI Series v England

First ODI MCG, January 14. Tickets

Second ODI Gabba, January 19. Tickets

Third ODI SCG, January 21. Tickets

Fourth ODI Adelaide Oval, January 26. Tickets

Fifth ODI Perth Stadium, January 28. Tickets

Prime Minister's XI

PM's XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2. Tickets

Gillette T20 trans-Tasman Tri-Series

First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Tickets

Second T20I – Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Tickets

Third T20I – Australia v England, MCG, February 10. Tickets

Fourth T20I – NZ v England, Wellington, February 14

Fifth T20I – NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16

Sixth T20I – NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18

Final – TBC, Eden Park, February 21