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England turn thoughts to Test pitch

By Paul Newman

10 January 1998

ENGLAND yesterday had their first glimpse of the relaid Sabina Park pitch on which their Test series against the West Indies will begin later this month, while the third Test in Guyana also provided a talking point.

Coach David Lloyd and the majority of the players watched the first session of Jamaica's President's Cup match against Barbados in Kingston while they waited for their bags to follow them from Antigua, where their training camp was abandoned on Wednesday. At the same time the Foreign Office was describing the political climate in Guyana as ``tense and volatile'', and advised Britons to travel to the Test's venue of Georgetown only if necessary.

England do not leave Trinidad for Guyana until Feb 19, but a Lord's spokesman said: ``We are closely monitoring the situation with the Foreign Office.'' A television station and England's team hotel have been the targets of ``two small bomb blasts'' in a wave of anti-government protests but there are no plans yet to switch the venue.

The Sabina Park Test pitch, being used for the first time, was very slow - the recent rain that has saturated the region has not helped - and did not have the shiny, almost mosaic appearance that was so noticeable in 1990 and 1994. It also, suprisingly, took turn as early as the first morning.

Yet before Robert Croft started flexing his spinning finger at the prospect of joining Phil Tufnell in the England side for the first Test, beginning on Jan 29, Lloyd urged caution. ``I don't think it's a pointer,'' he said. ``The groundstaff watered the pitch last week thinking that the sun would get on it but the rain put them behind in their preparations.''

Courtney Walsh was spearheading the Jamaican attack just two days after being replaced by Brian Lara as West Indies captain.

England, meanwhile, were finally able to have match practice for the first time since their arrival in the Caribbean, when they took to the Kensington Cricket Club nets yesterday afternoon. It was not, however, without mishap. Almost predictably, the session was hit by showers.

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
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Date-stamped : 25 Feb1998 - 18:58