Test match halted after 55 minutes

Jamaica put their international reputation on the line yesterday when the first Test in the 1998 Cable & Wireless series between the West Indies and England was abandoned after only 55 minutes of play.
A hush descended on a seemingly shocked Sabina Park in an almost eerie tribute to the embarrassing manner in which the match was called off, after the pitch was ruled unfit.

England, who opted to bat after winning the toss had reached 17 for three in 10.1 overs when umpires Steve Bucknor and S. Venkataraghavan consulted with match referee Barry Jarman and captains Brian Lara and Mike Atherton and made their ruling.

It was the first time in 122 years of Test cricket - and 1,396 matches - that a match was being abandoned because of the state of the pitch.

Cable & Wireless said they are extremely disappointed.

"As official sponsors, who have committed US$2.1 million to this year's series; we feel this is extremely unfortunate,'' said Cable & Wireless in a news release.

The telecom giant said it shared the disappointment of those who had travelled from around the world to Jamaica to witness the game, as well as those who planned to watch it on television and listen on radio.

The grim announcement was made at a brief press conference by WICB president, Pat Rousseau, after a series of meetings involving administrators, the teams' management, match referee and umpires.

Mr Rousseau expressed deep regret that the match had to be abandoned, apologised to sponsors, the teams and the spectators and promised patrons refunds between yesterday and today.

Electing to bat first on a pitch from which the ball sometimes kicked off a good length or kept low, the England batsmen were hit all over the body and on the hands so often that physiotherapist Wayne Morton had to make several trips to the middle.

The first sign that the match was in trouble was when the batsmen and fast bowler Curtley Ambrose met for a mid-pitch conference while pointing at the pitch. Then, after that, the batsmen and West Indian captain Lara also had a chat while looking at the pitch. The final straw was when left-hander Graham Thorpe was hit on the right hand and England captain Atherton followed Morton onto the field.

The England captain, Lara, Bucknor and Venkataraghavan were huddled in conference and were later joined by Jarman. They talked for 12 minutes before signalling the players off the field.

England lost their first wicket after 10 minutes, when Atherton was caught by Sherwin Campbell at gully off Courtney Walsh for two, at four for one. It was a nasty delivery, as the batsman went forward, attempted to pull away his bat and the ball hit the bat as it kicked off a length.

Mark Butcher did not survive the first ball and made it four for two, when he failed to get his bat away from one which flew off a fair length and edged high to Stuart Williams at third slip.

The third wicket, however, had nothing to do with the pitch. Ambrose got one to cut away as it bounced off the pitch and Nasser Hussain edged to Carl Hooper at second slip to make it nine for three after 35 minutes.