West Indies v England, 2nd Test, Antigua, 1st day February 13, 2009

Pitch concerns were voiced before match


The outfield at North Sound is unfit, and England are willing to play at the Antigua Recreation Ground © Getty Images
 
Before the second Test at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium was suspended after just 10 balls, both West Indies and England had voiced major concerns about the state of the outfield. Hugh Morris, the managing director of England cricket, wrote a letter to the ICC through the match referee Alan Hurst, and the West Indies physio put his concerns to the West Indies CEO, Donald Peters.

After a meeting yesterday evening it was agreed to bring the boundary ropes in to try and alleviate some of the problems, but in the 10 deliveries bowled the ball never went near the rope. Some areas of the outfield were just bare patches of stand and even the pre-match football game was bringing up huge divots.

The sides trained on the outfield on Thursday and quickly noticed that conditions were barely suitable even for light exercises. The new surface was only laid in November after previous problems over drainage during last year's Test against Australia when half a day was lost despite bright sunshine.

However the grass has been unable to take on the sand base and even walking across the outfield in normal shoes brought chunks out of the surface, let alone a pace bowler running it at full steam. Both Jerome Taylor and Fidel Edwards had to abort their run-ups as they were slipping even with spikes in.

"It was evident that the bowler was struggling with the run-up and the second over with Fidel bowling I brought it to the umpires' attention," Chris Gayle said. "They came to the conclusion that conditions were unsuitable. I don't know what will happen now."

"It was bad on both ends. Jerome went around the wicket because of the conditions and it's difficult in a Test when you have to switch so early on."

Gayle wasn't only concerned about his quick bowlers and their run-ups, but the general condition of the entire playing area. "Even in the outfield someone could make a big effort for a ball and anything could happen," he said. "We still have a lot of cricket to play and we didn't want to risk any injuries."

Andrew Strauss said that he couldn't have a huge say in the decision to abandon play because there were far fewer issues for the batsmen, although the outfield had already made shot-play a lottery because the balls just stuck in the outfield.

"From our point of view, being the batting side, clearly we couldn't voice concerns about whether it was fit enough to bowl on. If the West Indies were struggling to that extent then ours likely would have to," he said.

But he did add that, in training, the England quick bowlers had found it difficult in the sandy conditions. "A couple said it was hard going, but there's a difference between some gentle run-throughs and coming in at full pace. It didn't look satisfactory and if you are going to play a Test it has to be in conditions that are fair."

Omar Khan, the West Indies manager, said he had already had fears. "We were concerned with the outfield and had our doubts over whether it would last the whole five days."

Both Strauss and Morris offered sympathy to the thousands of England fans who have arrived in Antigua for this match. "It's terrible, and no one feels worse for the spectators than we do and they have every right to feel disappointed," Strauss said. "We are trying to do everything we can to mingle with them but the game of cricket doesn't need this."

Morris added: "It's a desperately unsatisfactory situation especially with regards the amount of spectators that have spent so much money to be out here."

Andrew McGlashan is a staff writer at Cricinfo

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