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ARG to host extra Test match from Sunday

The second Test was abandoned due to a dangerous outfield.

February 14, 2009, 10:49 AM IST
ARG to host extra Test match from Sunday

St John's (Antigua): West Indies cricket was plunged into fresh controversy on Friday when the second Test against England was abandoned after just 10 balls because of a dangerous outfield.

Only 45 minutes of action was possible at the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Ground before play was called off with England at 7-0 in their first innings.

International Cricket Council (ICC) referee Alan Hurst later revealed that a new match will start on Sunday at the long-established Antigua Recreation Ground in St John's.

The second Test will be recorded as an abandoned match with the game on Sunday to be considered as the third Test of what is now a five-match series.

The ARG hosted 21 Tests between 1981 and 2006 before the Sir Vivian Richards Ground replaced it two years ago ahead of the World Cup.

West Indies bowlers constantly struggled to keep their feet on the soft SVRG outfield which had been smothered in layers of sand after heavy rain.

West Indies captain Chris Gayle said the team was shocked by the developments.

"I'd like to apologise to the fans - it's very embarrassing," said Gayle. "We are 1-0 up in the series. We put England into bat, we tried to pick up some wickets and wanted to keep the momentum going but it was disappointing. With better facilities we hope this will not happen again."

England captain Andrew Strauss, who was on six when play was abandoned, believes the Antigua Recreation Ground would be safer.

"It's not in a great state but in terms of injuries it is fit to play on," said Strauss.

"We don't know what state the wicket is in. It might not have been covered all night but I think it's fit for bowlers to bowl on and batsmen to play on.

"It's not right that Test cricket matches have to be abandoned like this, lessons definitely need to be learned. The game of cricket doesn't need this."


England opener Alistair Cook admitted the situation was a farce.

"It's a bit of a shambles," said Cook. "Fidel Edwards was bowling and couldn't get his feet down.

"When we turned up a few days ago to practice, some of the lads were falling over as they played football. Today, the bowlers were coming in, the areas where they were running got deeper and deeper. We kind of knew what was going to happen.


"I know that Hugh Morris (England and Wales Cricket Board's managing director) sent a letter to the ICC to say that we weren't happy with the pitch.

"Hurst said the decision to switch the venue had been made because there wasn't the time to bring the Sir Vivian Richards ground up to the required standard.

"We may have been able to improve it, but we could not guarantee that some further occurrence might happen on the surface as it is," said Hurst.

"We investigated going to a new venue - in this case the ARG - and we have had a good look at the ground. It has a suitable pitch, the surface is fair, but can be and will be improved in the next 24 hours, and all the other infrastructure there was suitable to start a Test match."

Hurst confirmed that there had been concerns about the outfield here prior to the match.

"It did not look unfit for play," he said. "The views expressed were that the outfield was unstable, but no one knew for sure what problems would occur.

"It wasn't until we started and we saw the bowlers going through the surface that it was realised the pressure of those feet running through would create."

This is not the first time that this ground has come under scrutiny. In the 2007 World Cup, the game between the West Indies and Australia was played over two days because of rain with ground staff mopping up the outfield by treading down on small squares of sponge.

In 1998, the first Test against England in Kingston was called off after less than an hour's play after both captains agreed that the pitch was unfit for play.

West Indies lead this series 1-0 after they bowled out England for their third-lowest total in Tests of 51 in the second innings at Kingston.

The Antigua Recreation Ground was where Brian Lara made his record-breaking innings of 375 and 400 not out while Gayle smashed 317 there against South Africa in 2005.

The other two Tests in what is now a five-match series take place in Barbados from February 26 to March 2, and in Trinidad from March 2 to 6.

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1 India 4027 115
2 New Zealand 2829 109
3 South Africa 2917 108
4 England 3778 105
5 Australia 2640 98
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1 England 6745 125
2 India 7071 122
3 New Zealand 4837 112
4 Australia 5543 111
5 South Africa 5193 110
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1 Pakistan 7365 283
2 England 4253 266
3 South Africa 4196 262
4 India 8099 261
5 Australia 5471 261
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