Parched Queen's Park Oval pitch likened to Kanpur
A tinder-dry Queen's Park Oval pitch drew comparisons to Kanpur as West Indies and Australia weighed up the possibility of decking their teams with spin when the second Test begins on Sunday.
Having initially offered a slightly damp, tacky appearance when viewed by the tourists on their first visit to the ground on Friday, the strip had dried considerably by the time they took a second look the day before the match, while also showing evidence of surface cracking. Oil stains left by the heavy roller gave the wicket a slightly mottled look, and gave Darren Sammy and Michael Clarke much to ponder ahead of a match the hosts must win to stay in the race for the Frank Worrell Trophy.
Nathan Lyon and Michael Beer both bowled lengthy spells in the nets, Lyon frequently in discussions with the coach Mickey Arthur, and Clarke said both would be considered. Having not chosen two specialist spin bowlers in the same team even when confronted by the sharply turning Galle pitch in Sri Lanka last September, playing both would be quite a departure for the visitors, and would also force the omission of one of Ryan Harris, Ben Hilfenhaus or Peter Siddle - a difficult call in every case.
"It [two spinners] is definitely worth thinking about, for sure," Clarke said. "The wicket looks very dry, yesterday as soon as they took the covers off it looked a bit tacky, but no doubt there's a big possibility we could play two spinners on that wicket for sure."
Arthur mentioned Kanpur when asked to name a pitch of similar appearance. He was coaching South Africa in 2008 when they were confronted by a sharply spinning track on which India levelled the series at one match apiece. After South Africa were rolled for 121 in the third innings to lose in three days, Kanpur's officials were warned by the ICC for preparing a strip rated as "poor", just as Galle's was last year.
The Port-of-Spain pitch has returned a series of low scoring results in recent times, and offered plenty of assistance to spin bowlers. The hosts included the offspin of Shane Shillingford, in addition to Devendra Bishoo's leg breaks and Narsingh Deonarine's part-timers, in a squad of 14 in anticipation of more of the same. However its low and variable bounce means that fast bowlers can also reap rewards, provided they are straight and accurate. Shane Watson and Sammy are two such men who will be capable of hitting the same spot ball after ball.
"[There has been] a lot of first-class cricket played here [this season] and so far there's been a result. So we expect this pitch to be one that will have a [result]," Sammy said. "When we play here it is a little bit low as well, so I think bowling straight would be the key.
"You've got to be accurate and I think that's what we're going to look to do. We have Fidel [Edwards], [Kemar] Roach, bowling quick. If they're accurate, like they were in Barbados, and a few decisions that were close end up in our favour, it could be a different story. We're looking to go out and play another good Test match, hopefully we can be on the winning side.
"We've included Shillingford in the line-up, everyone in the 14-man squad is eligible for selection, the chairman is here so we will make some decisions on the best combination to help us win the Test match."
Rain is predicted to intervene on most days of the Test, leaving Clarke to also factor that into his team selection and tactics. "I think rain's definitely going to play a part, the forecast is for rain for the first three days of the Test match," Clarke said. "They say the drainage here is very good, and it rained a fair bit yesterday but the ground was still fine to play on. So it's going to be more the lack of time in the game [that could effect the result]. Come 5pm, I think it's going to be quite dark as well."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here