The Electronic Telegraph carries daily news and opinion from the UK and around the world.

Antigua wicket renews doubts

By Colin Croft

22 March 1998

THIS time Michael Atherton and his team could have a genuine excuse. The pitch at the Antigua Recreation Ground was wet before the start of play in this final Test match and was, to say the least, very spirited.

The biggest worry now is that this series could destroy the confidence and trust of any batsman in any Caribbean pitch, with the exception of the Kensington Oval in Barbados.

Antigua's Recreation Ground is daunting for any player and there were those in St John's who were darkly muttering about a repeat of the fiasco at Sabina Park in Kingston. With new drainage the outfield should handle rain well. Somehow, though, the pitch itself seemed much too moist for the start of a five day Test match. And England unfortunately lost the toss.

Most of us agree that the pitch at Sabina Park was not fit for Test cricket. That 55 minutes of play at the end of January did much more to damage the England team's morale and psychologial profile than was immediately evident.

Despite the very obvious shortcomings of the West Indies, at least they still lead the series 2-1 and will probably win the series 2-1. Had England been competing throughout, they would have probably been leading, and winning the series, now.

To win well, there must be a sense of adventure. In Trinidad for that 'additional' second Test, England had only themselves to blame for not winning. They let the West Indies back into the match and they lost it. Lara and his team recognised then that England would soon surrender.

They did, in Guyana, again worrying more about what the pitch ought to have done than realising that it was playing much better than expected. Had it not been for Angus Fraser, England would not have won the third Test in Trinidad.

After Barbados, the best pitch around, confidence should have been partially restored. The bounce was perfect, the pace average and stable, and the deviation very gentle and minimal. But that confidence was again shattered at the ARG.

It would have been interesting to see how the clobbering Philo Wallace and the unorthodox Clayton Lambert would have coped with such a pitch. While it was not half as treacherous as the Sabina Park strip, it could not be called true. England are somewhat fortunate for the way the pitch played. Only one game had been played on the square but this is actually the first on this actual strip.

These unpredictable conditions are not good enough for Test cricket. The game at this level should not be left to chance. Had the rains not taken away about four hours' play on the first day, England, even with Ramprakash and Thorpe in form, would probably have been bowled out before the close and West Indies would have had every opportunity to win the series.

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
Editorial comments can be sent to The Electronic Telegraph at
Contributed by CricInfo Management

Date-stamped : 22 Mar1998 - 15:27