Erratic pitch makes for memorable matches

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The Independent Online

There is no other pitch in the Caribbean quite like the Queen's Park Oval's. While it lacks the genuine pace and bounce that has returned to Sabina Park since it was dug up and relaid after the abandoned Test in 1998, it is not as slow and featureless as Bourda always was and Kensington Oval has become.

There is no other pitch in the Caribbean quite like the Queen's Park Oval's. While it lacks the genuine pace and bounce that has returned to Sabina Park since it was dug up and relaid after the abandoned Test in 1998, it is not as slow and featureless as Bourda always was and Kensington Oval has become.

At the same time, it seldom affords the heavy scoring for which the Antigua Recreation Ground is renowned.

There has been a concerted effort in recent times to alter its character. More live grass has been left in preparation, and the pitch has been rolled longer to make it harder.

Over the past decade, tall, fast bowlers have prospered here from movement off the seam and the increased bounce they can now get.

Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh each had more wickets at Queen's Park than on any other ground. Ambrose's 66 in his 12 Tests on the ground were at the ridiculous cost of 13.29 runs each. Walsh had 57 in 14 Tests, at an average of 20.72.

England's Angus Fraser (now this newspaper's Cricket Correspondent) is another towering bowler of fast-medium pace who enjoyed success at Queen's Park.

His 27 wickets in four Tests on the previous tours of 1994 and 1998 included figures of eight for 53 and were claimed at just over 14 runs apiece.

Ambrose, Walsh, Fraser and all others with their physical elevation have had another peculiar factor in their favour.

The West Indies players' area and the Queen's Park Club's president's box are directly behind the bowler's arm at the southern end and, even though their surrounds are painted white, they constitute inadequate sighting for the batsmen. The effect was immediate yesterday once Michael Vaughan switched Stephen Harmison to the south after six overs and Chris Gayle, Devon Smith and Brian Lara were quickly dispatched.

Because of worm infestation in the clay soil of north Trinidad, all matches were played on matting until 1955, when the square was excavated and soil from the south of the island laid down. It has been intermittently replaced but, for years, even those in charge of its preparation were unable to tell how it would behave. During the 1970s the pitch even prompted the emergence of a host of Trinidadian spinners.

While those days are now gone, it is Queen's Park's unpredictability that has made for exciting, sometimes eccentric cricket.

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