Cricket: Pitch betrays hurried preparation

Port of Spain is full of cricket pitch experts from Jamaica, where they were all able to nod their heads knowingly and predict mayhem.

Their prognostications were just as confident here at Queen's Park Oval but this time most were well wide of the mark. Brian Lara, the West Indies captain, had said he would field first if he won the toss, which would have almost certainly have been true but it was also a solid piece of propaganda to start knees shaking in the England dressing-room.

Michael Atherton likes to bat first, and after the first three hours of play the England captain's decision was more than justified. The pitch is heavily and uniformly grassed, distinctly green in places.

I arrived at the ground early and was able to feel the grass before the ropes went round the pitch. The grass was alive but dry and it looked a goodish surface to bat on, provided the first session could be survived without too much damage. There was a certain amount of lateral movement but no great pace and, in general, nothing one would not expect English batsman to cope with.

On any good Test pitch there is usually a little surface moisture about in the opening overs and early on the batsman can expect a certain amount of sideways movement. As the sun works on it, the moisture dries and the movement mostly disappears.

But as the afternoon wore on, the pitch became at times extremely difficult, not because of the grass but because it was under-prepared. The groundsman had had only a week to get this pitch ready and as it dried it became increasingly uneven because it did not have a solid enough base - there had not been time for enough heavy rolling.

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