x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Antigua match turns into farce

The first Test was humiliating for England. The second for the West Indies with the match being abandoned and moved to the Antigua Recreation Ground.

ANTIGUA // The first Test was humiliating for England. The second for the West Indies. It was halted after only 10 balls on Friday then abandoned as a draw because the ground at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, especially the bowlers' run-ups, was potentially dangerous. The four-match series was then extended by one Test. The ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat, who was present at the venue, said logistical matters meant that the third Test now will be played at the adjacent Antigua Recreation Ground, where the teams had net sessions on the eve of the game as the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium was not ready. Despite the initial doubts and lack of preparation, there was widespread criticism on how the match was allowed to go ahead in the first place and prompted Richards to say that he was ashamed to have his name associated with the ground. "This is not a shot in the foot for West Indies cricket, this is an arrow right through the heart. This is a huge pill to swallow," Richards said. "I am ashamed to have my name associated with this. "The officials of the Antiguan Cricket Association should hang their heads in shame. For these people to tell everyone that the ground was ready is a huge lie. "This is not a little festival match, this is a Test match. We have been given the responsibility to put on a Test match and we have let people down. It's an embarrassment." "It's definitely embarrassing," the West Indies captain Chris Gayle added. "I am not surprised about the conditions because when we were doing some fielding drills it wasn't suitable at all." Once the Test began, the West Indies bowlers complained that they could not keep their footing on what was a thick layer of sand in parts. "The umpires spoke to both captains and said that the ground was not fit for Test cricket," said the England captain Andrew Strauss. "If a bowler can't bowl at full speed then a ground is not fit." The surface at the ground, built for the 2007 World Cup, was relaid in October to correct drainage issues and the grass had not grown sufficiently since, which led to huge volumes of sand being spread on to the outfield.

"It's clearly the West Indies Cricket Board's responsibility to make sure it is fit to play," Lorgat said. "They must take responsibility for it and we will have to follow the process now. It is not good enough." The WICB could be subject to a warning, fine or suspension of the international status of the stadium from the ICC. Both teams had noted the potential risks in the outfield on Thursday but thought they could still play with caution. But Hugh Morris, the managing director of the England and Wales Cricket Board, said he wrote to West Indies authorities on Thursday expressing concern. "I don't think there was any doubt there was a problem before we came here with the sand on the ground but everyone thought it was OK," said the match referee Alan Hurst, a former Australia fast bowler. "No one had bowled on the wicket to test it out. It would have been jumping the gun to say it was unfit before the start of play. "The bowlers were struggling to get any sort of grip at all and were going through the sand. Obviously it was dangerous so that decision had to be made then." The farce recalled the abandoned Test between the West Indies and England in 1998 at Jamaica, which lasted 10.1 overs and became the first Test in history to be called off because of the state of the pitch. "It's not right that Test cricket matches can be abandoned and lessons must be learned," Strauss said. But both sides also held reservations about the Antigua Recreation Ground, where they have had net sessions for the past three days. "The field wasn't up to standard there as well," Gayle said. "It was a bit bumpy because, from what I gather, there is a lot of football played there. "Even the wicket, there were a couple ridges in the wicket as well, you had some uneven bounce." Strauss also said it was not in a great state. "But I think in terms of potential injuries or whatever, I think it is fit," he said. "We don't know what state the wickets are like there. But I think it is fit for bowlers to run in on." The last two Tests at Kensington Oval, Barbados, and Queen's Park Oval, Trinidad, are due to be played as scheduled. * With agencies