What to expect at Kensington

Tony Becca

6 March 1998

CRICKET: The fifth Test of the Cable and Wireless series between the West Indies and England will be played at Kensington Oval and based on the present state of affairs, it promises to be an exciting contest.

After winning the fourth Test at Bourda, the West Indies lead the series 2-1, and with only one more Test to come, victory for the home team will clinch the series. England however, still rate their chances to win it, and to do so, they must win at Kensington.

That is one reason why the next confrontation in a series of fluctuating fortunes promises to be exciting. Another is the atmosphere.

With some seven to eight thousand English fans expected to be on hand, the crowd will be just about half and half.

The main reason for the exciting prospect however, is the promise of a good pitch at Kensington Oval - a pitch which, apart from last year against India when the grassroots made it a nightmare for batsmen towards the end, is usually good, not only for bowlers, and especially fast bowlers, but also for batsmen, and especially for stroke players.

So far this series, the pitches have been an embarrassment to West Indies cricket, and it is only because England, after promising ``no whinging'' at the start of the tour, are probably being diplomatic why they have not come out blasting. And it is only either that the West Indies took the lead in the second Test at Queen's Park Oval and again in the fourth at Bourda, or because of the embarrassment why those who are whispering players and officials alike - are not shouting.

Sabina Park, where the first Test was abandoned, was a disgrace; Queen's Park Oval, where the West Indies won the second Test, was thick with grass and the bounce of the ball was not reliable; Queen's Park Oval, where England won the third Test, also produced unreliable bounce; and because of scarred and dusty surface at Bourda where the West Indies won the fourth Test, batting was more difficult than it should have been on a pitch prepared for a Test match.

After the fourth Test, captain Brian Lara and former captain Courtney Walsh, expressed hope the Kensington Oval pitch would be better and so too did England captain Mike Atherton.

Although Kensington Oval does not look as lovely as it used to be - certainly in the 1970s and 1980s when, apart from the pace, the bounce was encouraging for fast bowlers and reliable, and although a few are expressing fears, it looks better than those at Sabina Park, Queen's Park Oval and Bourda, much better than it did last year, and it promises to be a reasonably good stage for a good, Test mach contest between batsman and bowlers.

The Oval, despite recent losses there in 1994 and 1995, has been the West Indies happy hunting ground at home, for visiting teams, it has been like going into the lion's den and Lara and his men are happy that they will be playing there in the Test match which could decide the series.

So too however, are Atherton and his men - especially Alec Stewart (118 and 143), Atherton himself (85), Graham Thorpe (84), Angus Fraser (8 for 75) and Andy Caddick (5 for 63) who all paraded their skills when England, despite already losing the series, won by 208 runs on their previous visit in 1994.

England are also happy because they remember Australia beat the Windies there in 1995, and that India, despite losing, went close to winning there in 1997.

Source: The Jamaica Gleaner

Contributed by CricInfo Management, and reproduced with permission

Date-stamped : 06 Mar1998 - 18:46