Test match halted after 55 minutes

Tony Becca, Senior Sport Editor

January 30, 1998

Jamaica put their international reputation on the line yesterday when the first Test in the 1998 Cable & Wireless series between the West Indies and England was abandoned after only 55 minutes of play.

A hush descended on a seemingly shocked Sabina Park in an almost eerie tribute to the embarrassing manner in which the match was called off, after the pitch was ruled unfit.

England, who opted to bat after winning the toss had reached 17 for three in 10.1 overs when umpires Steve Bucknor and S. Venkataraghavan consulted with match referee Barry Jarman and captains Brian Lara and Mike Atherton and made their ruling.

It was the first time in 122 years of Test cricket - and 1,396 matches - that a match was being abandoned because of the state of the pitch.

Cable & Wireless said they are extremely disappointed.

``As official sponsors, who have committed US$2.1 million to this year's series; we feel this is extremely unfortunate,'' said Cable & Wireless in a news release.

The telecom giant said it shared the disappointment of those who had travelled from around the world to Jamaica to witness the game, as well as those who planned to watch it on television and listen on radio.

The grim announcement was made at a brief press conference by WICB president, Pat Rousseau, after a series of meetings involving administrators, the teams' management, match referee and umpires.

Mr Rousseau expressed deep regret that the match had to be abandoned, apologised to sponsors, the teams and the spectators and promised patrons refunds between yesterday and today.

Electing to bat first on a pitch from which the ball sometimes kicked off a good length or kept low, the England batsmen were hit all over the body and on the hands so often that physiotherapist Wayne Morton had to make several trips to the middle.

The first sign that the match was in trouble was when the batsmen and fast bowler Curtley Ambrose met for a mid-pitch conference while pointing at the pitch. Then, after that, the batsmen and West Indian captain Lara also had a chat while looking at the pitch. The final straw was when left-hander Graham Thorpe was hit on the right hand and England captain Atherton followed Morton onto the field.

The England captain, Lara, Bucknor and Venkataraghavan were huddled in conference and were later joined by Jarman. They talked for 12 minutes before signalling the players off the field.

England lost their first wicket after 10 minutes, when Atherton was caught by Sherwin Campbell at gully off Courtney Walsh for two, at four for one. It was a nasty delivery, as the batsman went forward, attempted to pull away his bat and the ball hit the bat as it kicked off a length.

Mark Butcher did not survive the first ball and made it four for two, when he failed to get his bat away from one which flew off a fair length and edged high to Stuart Williams at third slip.

The third wicket, however, had nothing to do with the pitch. Ambrose got one to cut away as it bounced off the pitch and Nasser Hussain edged to Carl Hooper at second slip to make it nine for three after 35 minutes.

And SuperClubs has stepped in to try and assuage disappointed visitors by offering a 25 per cent discount on room rates and day and night passes to its world-renowned resorts, Grand Lido Negril, Grand Lido Braco and Grand Lido San Souci this weekend.

The discount package will also be available to visitors to Breezes Montego Bay, Breezes Golf and Beach Resort, Hedonism II and Boscobel Beach.

To take advantage of this offer, visitors can call 1-888-Go-Super.

More from the Gleaner

Insult for cricket worldwide

CRICKET: Travesty, unbelievable, ridiculous, unprecedented, unreliable, dangerous, downright disgrace, utterly incomprehensible, farcical, unknown and many others. The words will roll from tongue and dictionaries straight into headlines. Unfortunately, they are all correct, in their own context of the ``Debacle of Sabina''. It was totally disgraceful, shameful even. This was an insult for cricket worldwide and especially cricket in the Caribbean. ``The Nightmare of South Camp Road'' (Sabina Park is located on South Camp Road, Kingston). Author Steven King could not have plotted it better.

Nothing remotely similar to this has ever happened before, in any part of the cricket world. This was certainly history being made, albeit the dubious kind, ``black'' history, not the type to be proud of. I am sure that there will be no holidays granted for this. Repercussions, though, will abound, or should. This pitch produced too many different aspects in such a very short time. It bounced normally, it bounced alarmingly, then it did not bounce at all, many deliveries scooting along the ground, all in only one hour of play.

As suggested before, the pitch was highly unpredictable. Simply, too many patches and pieces. There were so many ``experts'' at the pitch site just before the game, one might have imagined that someone was actually buried there. In retrospect, those people might have had a premonition. The pitch should now be dug up, and those directly responsible for this travesty of a Test pitch should be buried in the same hole. They deserve no better than what they have just managed to do to Caribbean cricket overall.

After an hour of hostility and unintended terrorism, certainly not altogether caused by the bowlers, the home captain, Brian Lara, intimated, that he thought that the pitch was dangerous. Mike Atherton, having won the toss and electing to bat, had already been out, caught between two minds as to whether he should leave alone or slash outside the off stump to a steaming Courtney Walsh, only for the delivery to end up, with great speed, at gully, where Sherwin Campbell took a stupendous catch, diving to his left. It was only the opening act of a greater tragedy.

Mark Butcher, very out of touch with both form and sense of timing, perhaps only finding out this morning that he would be included, got the proverbial ``unplayable'' delivery. Yet he managed to play it, or more to the point, the ball played him. It bit, bounced awkwardly, kept on going up, lined up with laser-like accuracy to Butcher's head. Evasive, or protective, action was the only option. Butcher must have been relieved when Stuart Williams took the easiest of catches. This was getting messier.

By that dismissal, though, it was already painfully clear, with a direct emphasis on ``pain'', that something was seriously wrong with the pitch. Actually, as early as the third ball of Walsh's opening over, and the day's first, the writing was on the wall. That delivery also kicked viciously, but also veered into Atherton, passing between bat and body, David Williams, the wicket-keeper becoming airborne to take the delivery. That, for all practical purposes, was that. The similarities of Egbaston in 1995 are real.

Nasser Hussain, one of England's stalwarts against Australia last year, survived long enough to give Ambrose this time, a wicket, which, after all that had happened the previous half an hour, was normal. Hussain prodded forward to a good leg-cutting delivery which bounced a bit, more from Ambrose than the pitch, and edged, regulation-like, to the sure hands of Carl Hooper at second slip. At 17 for three, England were reeling, with nowhere to hide.

Source: The Jamaica Gleaner

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Date-stamped : 25 Feb1998 - 19:39