Test abandoned after sandpit farce
1.4 overs England 7 for 0 (Strauss 6*, Cook 1*) v West Indies - match abandoned
Scorecard and ball-by-ball commentary
The second Test between England and West Indies at the Sir Vivian Richards stadium in Antigua has been abandoned after just ten deliveries, after the sand-based outfield was deemed a safety risk to the bowlers. The day's play was halted midway through the second over, only two balls after a 20-minute delay for rain, as Fidel Edwards flung the ball away in disgust, after failing three times in a row to enter his delivery stride.
After a lengthy discussion between the captains, Chris Gayle and Andrew Strauss, and the onfield umpires, Daryl Harper and Tony Hill, the ICC match referee, Alan Hurst was left to make the difficult decision. The run-ups were hastily dug up straight after the close, but it was a futile gesture. The only option available to the authorities was an outright abandonment, a situation eerily reminiscent of the Sabina Park farce in 1997-98, when batsman safety was the issue on a dangerously uneven pitch.
To the huge embarrassment of the West Indies Cricket Board, this was a situation that had been telegraphed in the days leading up to the match. England were unable to train at the stadium on either of the two days leading up to the match, decamping instead to the island's original Test venue, the near-derelict Antigua Recreation Ground in St John's, which has been drafted back into service at short notice for the start of the hastily arranged third Test on Sunday. WICB officials recce-ed the ground straight after the abandonment, although Andy Roberts, the top groundsman in the island, was doubtful whether it could be made ready at such short notice.
Another option could have been to shift the match to Sir Allen Stanford's private ground near the airport, the venue of the 20/20 for 20 in November, although such is the relationship between Stanford and the WICB that that was never realistically considered. For the moment, however, all attention centres on a farce, like the Sabina Park abandonment 11 years ago, that could and should have been avoided. That match lasted for 10.1 overs, the shortest in Test history, but this one could have just set an unbeatable record.
The outfield, which was relaid in October after high-profile issues with the drainage during the 2007 World Cup, was declared by Hurst on the eve of the match to be "unsatisfactory" but he added that it would be impossible to know how bad the situation was until play actually got underway. It took less than a delivery for the doubts to begin to surface. Chris Gayle won the toss and bowled, hoping to inflict further scars on England after their 51 all out at Kingston last week, but Jerome Taylor failed to deliver his first ball at the first attempt, and then ended up sending it down from parallel with the stumps, after completely losing his run-up.
Edwards at the other end had an even tougher time of it. He bowled two balls before a light shower caused the players to leave the field, but upon the resumption, his frustration grew with every delivery. With sand visibly being kicked up as he pounded to the crease, he managed to bowl two half-cocked deliveries before hurling the ball to the keeper in disgust and precipitating the inquest.
"The bowlers have deemed the run-ups to be a safety hazard," said Hurst while the situation remained up in the air. "Rather than saying the game is abandoned we are saying it is abandoned for the day. I am not sure what the options are, maybe extend the time for the Test and play it at another venue. That will have to be a decision made by the boards and the ICC."
Prior to the start of play, the real concerns had revolved around the fielders in the outfield. At Brisbane in 2002-03, Simon Jones wrecked his knee while attempting a slide on a similarly sand-based outfield, and Brendan Nash was noticeably reluctant to slide while fielding at square leg. But it was the lack of firmness under foot that was the real issue. From the moment the doubts were raised, an abandonment was the only feasible outcome.
West Indies 1 Chris Gayle (capt), 2 Devon Smith, 3 Ramnaresh Sarwan, 4 Shivnarine Chanderpaul, 5 Brendan Nash, 6 Ryan Hinds, 7 Denesh Ramdin (wk), 8 Jerome Taylor, 9 Daren Powell, 10 Sulieman Benn, 11 Fidel Edwards
England 1 Andrew Strauss (capt), 2 Alastair Cook, 3 Owais Shah, 4 Kevin Pietersen, 5 Paul Collingwood, 6 Andrew Flintoff, 7 Matt Prior (wk), 8 Stuart Broad, 9 Ryan Sidebottom, 10, James Anderson, 11 Monty Panesar
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo