Antigua pitch receives demerit point in wake of Windies series win

Sanction confirmed by match referee Jeff Crowe in the wake of three-day contest at Sir Vivian Richards Ground

George Dobell
George Dobell
Stuart Broad removed Roston Chase's off stump (and left him on his knees), West Indies v England, 2nd Test, second day, Antigua, February 1, 2019

Stuart Broad removed Roston Chase's off stump (and left him on his knees)  •  Associated Press

The Sir Vivian Richards Ground in Antigua, the venue of West Indies' series-winning victory over England last week, has received one demerit point after being deemed to be "below average" by ICC match referee, Jeff Crowe*.
The sanction, which ESPNcricinfo reported on Tuesday was imminent, comes after the match finished inside three days, with variable bounce evident throughout. However, officials at CWI had been hopeful that the fact West Indies batted for 131 overs and scored more than 300 runs in their first innings showed the pitch was not so bad.
Several batsmen were struck on the hands or body in the course of the contest, and a couple more received unplayable deliveries. Roston Chase, for example, was bowled by a short ball that kept impossibly low, while Joe Root was dismissed by one that lifted sharply to take him on the glove.
By the time the game ended, England's keeper, Ben Foakes, had gone for a scan on an injured hand - it showed no fracture - while Darren Bravo, who made a match-defining half-century, lifted his shirt to show spectators the bruises he had sustained during the innings.
England coach, Trevor Bayliss, had said the surface "wasn't the greatest wicket we've ever seen in world cricket".
"It looked to me as if you had to be careful of the ball leaping off a length," he said. Bravo also admitted "it wasn't the best".
Pitches deemed to be "unfit" are given five demerit points, "poor" pitches are given three points and "below average" strips are given one demerit point. Any ground which receives five demerit points over a five-year period will be banned from hosting internationals for 12 months. They can be banned for two years if they receive 10.
That could prove especially problematic as Antigua is pencilled in - the venues are not confirmed - to host a Test against India in August. The other Test venue for that series is likely to be Trinidad.
In 2009, another Test against England at the Sir Vivian Richards Ground was abandoned after 10 deliveries due to an unfit outfield.
The ruling comes after Jason Holder, West Indies' captain, was suspended from playing in the final Test due to his side's slow over-rate in Antigua.
The sanction will do little to dissuade some of the view that nations outside the 'Big Three' of India, Australia and England are more harshly treated.
Last week, Dave Cameron, CWI's president, described the Holder sanction as a "crippling decision" that threatened to overshadow West Indies' series victory, and called on the ICC to modify the rule.
*February 10, 2130 GMT - This story was updated after confirmation of the sanction from the ICC

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo