Cricket: Roberts pitches into an attack on Lord's

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Andy Roberts, the West Indies team manager, fiercely attacked the Lord's pitch yesterday, claiming it was under-prepared. "It is one of the worst I have seen in England," he said. "If the pitches in the other matches in this series are similar to this one then someone will get hurt."

A Lord's pitch, that was used for the Championship match between Middlesex and Hampshire in May, has already been reported to the Test and County Cricket Board as being below standard.

Roberts said that the West Indies had not yet complained to the referee, John Reid, "but we will consider it".

With a smile on his face he had opened last night's press conference by saying: "I see a lot of smiling faces. I don't think you will be smiling this time tomorrow.

"This wicket is breaking up, a number of balls are bouncing up off a length. Too many players are being hit on the fingers and are having to duck and dive. It's not good enough for a Test match. I think it's under- prepared and this was deliberately done. We have been accused of preparing pitches to suit our own bowlers, but this we never do.

"I am fearful for the game of cricket. I am still confident we can win this match, but I don't think it will be possible to score more than 150 in the fourth innings." He then added, somewhat mysteriously: "I keep my thoughts to myself."

England's bowling hero, Angus Fraser, a Middlesex bowler accustomed to the Lord's square, appeared puzzled by Roberts' comments: "I'm not complaining about the pitch. It is two-paced and the batsmen cannot play their shots with any confidence. We have been disciplined, waiting for something to happen and it did. Digger [Peter Martin] and I had the right conditions to bowl in."

But was it the "worst Test pitch in England"? Fraser blocked: "I don't want to get involved in that."

Several former Test players judged the pitch to be very dry before the start and predicted it would not last for a five-day Test. On Thursday evening Roberts had been hoping that West Indies would reach 500 in their first innings but it was clear, from soon after lunch yesterday, that all the quick bowlers were making the ball rear unexpectedly.

Fraser suggested that England were hoping for a lead of 30-plus. They will need every run because in their second innings the West Indies fast bowlers will certainly attempt to exact retribution for yesterday's indignities.