Former Test skipper Mark Taylor says the SCG pitch has “lost its fear factor” and believes captains must be more “proactive” if they are to complete a final-day charge.
Taylor’s assessment of the SCG wicket and captaincy comes after Australia failed to bowl England out in the fourth Ashes Test, the tourists surviving 102 overs to deny the hosts’ push for a 4-0 series lead.
Sunday’s result followed Australia’s failed bid to clinch a fifth-day victory over India at the SCG last year, when Ajinkya Rahane‘s men stonewalled through 131 overs.
AS IT HAPPENED: England hold on for riveting SCG draw
READ MORE: Tubby ‘worried’ about Carey after ugly game
Such was the nature of day-five SCG pitches in bygone years that Australia would sometimes play two specialist spinners, such as Shane Warne and Stuart MacGill in the 1990s and 2000s, and Nathan Lyon and Stephen O’Keefe in more recent times.
Vivid in the minds of cricket fans are also the gaping cracks that rippled through the SCG pitch on day five of the 2009 edition, as Australia’s Mitchell Johnson charged in relentlessly and South Africa’s Graeme Smith showed remarkable courage in batting with a broken hand.
The SCG groundstaff have curated SCG wickets of a more docile kind in recent years, frustrating teams as they hunt a final-day win.
“Australia battled on fairly manfully,” Taylor told Wide World of Sports.
“The thing about the SCG pitch is it’s not like it was in yesteryear; it’s not breaking up like it used to. It used to be a lot harder to bat on day five than it is these days. Because there’s more grass early on it’s not breaking up anywhere near as much, so it’s not turning as much and it’s not getting the uneven bounce that it used to get. It’s becoming harder to bowl sides out on day five. It’s not a rager any more.
“The fact that Pat Cummins declared so late, and I think a little too late, suggests the SCG has lost its fear factor with batting on day five.
“Australia’s bowling was pretty good. They dropped a couple of chances but not many, and they didn’t cost them much.
“So it’s just not the nightmare wicket to bat on last as it was in yesteryear.”
Taylor’s argument that captains must be more proactive at the SCG is subtle feedback for Cummins, who’s attracted criticism from several greats of the game over his fourth-day declaration call.
Boland gets Bairstow as Australia close in on victory
Cummins didn’t declare until Australia had reached 8-416, giving his bowlers just 11 overs at England’s batsmen before stumps.
England’s openers, Zak Crawley and Haseeb Hameed, saw the visitors through to the day’s close.
“Captains are going to need to be proactive and more aware of that fact. Rocking up and expecting to bowl a side out on day five – it’s not necessarily going to happen,” Taylor said.
“So you’re going to have to be a little more proactive on day four … I think that’s where Australia fell in the job. I think they could have been more proactive on day four – scored their runs a little bit quicker and given themselves a few more overs to bowl England out.”
For a daily dose of the best of the breaking news and exclusive content from Wide World of Sports, subscribe to our newsletter by clicking here!