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Fears over MCG pitch for Boxing Day Test

By AAP Newswire

There is genuine concern for the state of the Boxing Day Test pitch, with play called off during a dramatic Sheffield Shield match at the MCG because of dangerous playing conditions.

Former Test batsman Shaun Marsh feared someone would be seriously hurt, as he and his Western Australia teammates attempted to dodge and weave around a barrage of searing and unpredictable deliveries on Saturday from Victoria's pace battery.

Marsh and Marcus Stoinis were both struck in the head by Peter Siddle deliveries which climbed much higher than the batsmen had anticipated, and they later underwent concussion tests.

Cricket Australia head of cricket operations Peter Roach said the pitch being used in the Shield match was not the one being prepared for the Australia-New Zealand Test.

However, Roach conceded there was work to be done to ensure a safe playing surface on a MCG pitch which, in recent years, had been scrutinised heavily.

It was rated "poor" by the ICC after the Boxing Day Test in 2017 and scraped through with an "average" ranking after England's Ashes visit last summer.

"(Head curator) Matt Page and the MCG ground staff have more than two weeks to ensure the Test surface, which is a different pitch strip to the one being used in this match, is of international standard," Roach said.

"We will seek to better understand the issues that resulted in variable bounce at the MCG on Saturday.

"We will also work closely with MCG ground staff in the lead-up to the Test match."

WA were 3-89 when match officials stopped play in the Shield contest, 45 minutes into the second session on day one.

Siddle (3-21) had done most of the damage, however, it was an Andrew Fekete delivery that crashed into Stoinis' ribs which was the final straw for the umpires.

Marsh, who made only 14 before nicking Siddle to second slip, estimated he had been hit on the hands and body up to five times in his 57-ball innings.

"It was obviously an interesting few hours out there," Marsh told ABC Grandstand.

"At the end of the day, my player safety is the most-important thing and, unfortunately, the wicket was unfit to play on.

"The wicket was very wet underneath and it was creating divots out there, which made the ball rise off a good length.

"As the game got in, it got worse and worse out there - disappointing."

Marsh and rival captain Peter Handscomb were involved in discussions with umpires, coaches and groundsmen before the decision was made to call stumps with only 39.4 overs bowled.

Play is scheduled to resume half-an-hour early on day two to make up for lost time, however, the pitch will need to be reassessed on Sunday morning.

"We saw guys getting hit on the head and it was disappointing," Marsh said.

"Player safety is paramount and, at that stage, I can't see us getting back on."

WA coach Adam Voges said the right decision had been made to suspend play.

"We saw a number of deliveries misbehave," Voges said.

"We've got a couple of guys who have had to do concussion tests today and a couple of sore fingers and some sore ribs as well.

"I think they're OK, but my experience with concussion is you might not know until tomorrow anyway."

NZ opener Tom Latham wasn't concerned when he heard the news about the pitch after touching down on Saturday in Perth.

"I'm sure by the time the Boxing Day Test comes around, they'll have everything sorted," Latham said.

"From our point of view, there's no concern."