Cricket: Umpires unjustly take the flak on a nightmare track

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IT isn't only the batsmen who find it tough going at the Queen's Park Oval. The umpires don't have an easy time of it either.

The variable bounce, the lateral movement and the turn it offers to the bowlers invariably lead to plenty of playing and missing and repeated use of the pads. Darrell Hair, the experienced Australian, and Eddie Nicholls, the police detective from Guyana in his second Test, would have had more decisions to contemplate over the three days of this Test than those officiating at the next three Tests will have put together.

Steve Bucknor, the tall Jamaican widely regarded as one of the game's most reliable umpires, rates Queen's Park as his least favourite ground. "The ball seems to do so much and not many games go over five days," he noted recently. "It's a very, very difficult pitch and it asks too many decisions of the umpires."

In the 1993 Test against Pakistan, Bucknor and Dickie Bird set a record with 17 lbw decisions. Then the problem was low bounce, so often a feature of the ground. In 1971, Abid Ali, the Indian medium-pacer, bowled Roy Fredericks with the first ball of the Test that rolled along the turf to hit the base of the middle stump.

For the back-to-back Tests this time, the pressure on the umpires has been caused by batsmen using their pads as a second line of defence or deliberately kicking the ball away.

Both teams - but especially England - have been clearly aggrieved at the several rejections their concerted appealing has met but, on the whole, Hair and Nicholls have got things acceptably right. It has been a hard job for them in a tense atmosphere and they have done it well.

Srinivasa Venkatarghavan, who stood in the second Test, knows Queen's Park better than any of his colleagues. He played five Tests here as the off-spinner in India's powerful spin attack in the 1970s and early '80s and used that knowledge to his advantage.

He recently conceded that his overall ratio of mistakes in any match is roughly 10 per cent. That is about what the players are prepared to accept, whatever they say. They realise what a demanding and thankless task it is, especially in conditions such as these, and they could have had no justifiable complaints about the overall standards in the eight days of Test cricket here.

Queen's Park Oval scoreboard

Third day; England won toss

WEST INDIES - First innings 159 (A R C Fraser 5-40, A R Caddick 5-67).

ENGLAND - First innings

(Friday: 22 for 2)

A J Stewart c D Williams

b Hooper 44

(167 min, 112 balls, 4 fours)

J P Crawley b Ambrose 1

(29 min, 16 balls)

D W Headley b Ambrose 1

(20 min, 17 balls)

N Hussain c D Williams b Walsh 0

(20 min, 14 balls)

G P Thorpe c D Williams

b Hooper 32

(127 min, 88 balls, 2 fours)

M A Butcher c and b Adams 28

(121 min, 104 balls, 2 fours)

R C Russell not out 20

(101 min, 62 balls)

A R Caddick run out 0

(10 min, 4 balls)

A R C Fraser c and b Ambrose 5

(16 min, 10 balls, 1 four)

P C R Tufnell lbw b Ambrose 0

(1 min, 1 ball)

Extras (b1,lb4,nb7) 12

Total (317 min, 71.4 overs) 145

Fall (cont): 3-22 (Headley), 4-27 (Hussain), 5-71 (Stewart), 6-101 (Thorpe), 7-134 (Butcher), 8-135 (Caddick), 9-145 (Fraser).

Bowling: Walsh 17-4-35-1 (14-4-32-1 2-0-2-0 1-0-1-0); Ambrose 15.4-5- 25-5 (nb6) (11-5-10-3 4.4-0-15-2); McLean 9-2-23-0 (5-2-7-0 4-0-16-0); Benjamin 13-3-34-0 (nb2) (4-0-16-0 9-3-18-0); Hooper 15-3-23-2; Adams 2-2-0-1 (one spell each).

Progress: Second day: 50: 137 min, 28.5 overs. Lunch: 75-5 (Thorpe 20, Butcher 0) 40 overs. 100: 213 min, 48.3 overs. Tea: 143-8 (Russell 18, Fraser 5) 70 overs. Innings closed: 3.19.

WEST INDIES - Second innings

S L Campbell lbw b Fraser 13

(108 min, 64 balls, 1 four)

S C Williams c Atherton

b Caddick 23

(29 min, 17 balls, 3 fours)

*B C Lara lbw b Fraser 47

(128 min, 95 balls, 7 fours)

K C G Benjamin c Russell b Fraser 1

(21 min, 11 balls)

C L Hooper lbw b Headley 5

(54 min, 36 balls)

S Chanderpaul c Russell

b Headley 39

(140 min, 92 balls, 5 fours)

J C Adams not out 45

D Williams lbw b Headley 0

(4 min, 5 balls)

C E L Ambrose b Headley 0

(4 min, 1 ball)

N A M McLean c Stewart

b Caddick 2

C A Walsh not out 0

Extras (lb11,nb8) 25

Total (for 9) 200

Fall: 1-27 (S C Williams), 2-66 (Campbell), 3-82 (Benjamin), 4-92 (Lara), 5-102 (Hooper), 6-158 (Chanderpaul), 7-159 (D Williams), 8-159 (Ambrose); 9-189 (McLean).

Progress: Third day: 100: 176 min, 36.4 overs. Lunch: 120-5 (Chanderpaul 12, Adams 7) 49 overs. 150: 285 min, 60.1 overs. Tea: 180-8 (Adams 31, McLean 2) 75 overs.

Umpires: D B Hair (Aus) and E Nicholls (WI).