Sandy outfield forces early close in Antigua Test

Play on Day 1 of the second Test between the West Indies and England was abandoned on Friday early because umpires deemed the sandy outfield was dangerous.

updated: February 14, 2009 12:41 IST
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St John's, Antigua:

Play on the first day of the second Test between the West Indies and England was abandoned on Friday after just 10 deliveries because umpires deemed the sandy outfield was dangerous.

England, sent in to bat, had reached 7-0 in 1.4 overs before play was stopped, with bowlers complaining they could not keep their footing on the outfield, which is made up of a thick layer of sand in parts.

"The bowlers were struggling to get any sort of grip at all and were going through the sand," match referee Alan Hurst said. "Obviously it was dangerous so that decision had to be made then."

Match officials at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium abandoned play for the day while alternatives _ including the possibility of moving the match to a different venue _ were considered. England proposed that the match be moved to the Antigua Recreation Ground where both teams practiced over the past three days.

Hugh Morris, the managing director of the England and Wales Cricket Board, said he had written to West Indies authorities on Thursday expressing concern about the outfield.

England captain Andrew Strauss said the West Indies bowlers had complained their feet were getting stuck in the ground.

"The umpires spoke to both captains and said that the ground was not fit for Test cricket," Strauss said. "If a bowler can't bowl at full speed then a ground is not fit."

The surface at the two-year-old ground was relaid in October to correct drainage issues and the grass has not grown back sufficiently since, which led to huge volumes of sand being spread on to the outfield.

"I don't think there was any doubt there was a problem before we came here with the sand on the ground but everyone thought it was OK," said Hurst, a former Australian fast bowler. "No one had bowled on the wicket to Test it out. It would have been jumping the gun to say it was unfit before the start of play.

"In the long run we have to look at the health and safety of the players."

The brief session of play was watched by ICC Chief Executive Haroon Lorgat.

"It's clearly the West Indies Cricket Board's responsibility to make sure it is fit to play," Lorgat said. "They must take responsibility for it and we will have to follow the process now. It is not good enough."

It re-awoke memories of England's first Test against the West Indies in January 1998, which was abandoned after less than an hour's play _ becoming the first Test in history to be called off because of the state of the pitch.

"It's not right that Test cricket matches can be abandoned and lessons must be learned," Strauss said.