Cricket: Batsmen can enjoy old-fashioned pitch

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The Independent Online
THIS is Kensington Oval as it used to be. This is a pitch that reminds old-timers of the days when the many great batsmen produced by this tiny island of Barbados used to feast themselves against bowlers from wherever they came.

Sir Clyde Walcott, like Sir Everton Weekes and Seymour Nurse, punished as many attacks as anyone in his heyday. It took Sir Clyde only an hour on the first morning, even as England were tottering, to proclaim: "This looks to me like a 500 per innings draw".

There have not been many of those in recent times, in fact not since 1977. That was the period when the authorities became fed-up with a succession of high-scoring stalemates and decided to inject some life into the lifeless surface here.

It was also a period that coincided with the emergence of the great fast bowling quartets which were to be the backbone of West Indian domination of world cricket in the 1980s.

Prior to that you would pay your money and come to Kensington knowing full well that you were going to witness the outstanding batsmen of the day treat you to an exhibition of stroke play. Bowlers were reduced to mere drawers of water and hewers of wood.

Of the 10 Tests between 1955 and 1974 nine were drawn. There were three totals over 600 and seven over 500.

It was here that Pakistan's Hanif Mohammed accumulated the longest innings in Test cricket, remaining in the middle for 999 minutes for his 337 in 1958.

Sixteen years later Lawrence Rowe took his memorable 302 off England and the likes of Sir Garry Sobers, Bob Simpson, Bill Lawry and Worrell helped themselves to double centuries.

As Mark Ramprakash and Graham Thorpe mounted their restorativepartnership towards the end of the first day and into the second, the prospects of similar run gluttony were real. Brian Lara, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Carl Hooper would have been licking their chops in anticipation of scores that were impossible on the inferior pitches earlier in the series.

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