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 today at the long-established Antigua Recreation Ground (ARG) in St John’s.
The second Test will be recorded as an abandoned match with the game today 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.
The West Indies bowlers constantly struggled to keep their feet on the soft outfield, that 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 apologize to the fans — it’s very embarrassing,” Gayle said. “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 6 not out when play was abandoned, believes the ARG will be safer.
“It’s not in a great state, but in terms of injuries it is fit to play on,” Strauss said. “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,” Cook said. “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,” Hurst said. “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.”
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.