Tony Cozier: 'Prof' the pitch guru caught out by flat-track Oval

"Kensington Oval will produce a typically fast, bouncy pitch over the next five days," the Daily Nation proclaimed yesterday morning.

It was reporting the confident prediction of the ground supervisor, Richard Edwards, the former West Indies fast bowler universally known hereabouts as "Prof" and regarded as something of a pitch guru. He is generally correct in his pre-match assessment, but it did not take long to realise that he had got it wrong this time. Andrew Strauss and Chris Gayle certainly knew it.

As soon as the coin rolled across the hard, flat surface and landed with heads face up, the England captain beamed as if his Lottery numbers had come up. Gayle glumly confirmed that he was also looking forward to batting: he was now left to anticipate the same long, hard grind in the sun as in the previous Test at the Antigua Recreation Ground.

Within a quarter of an hour, as Strauss and Alastair Cook settled in, it was clear that this was a clone of the Kensington pitches of an earlier generation.

All six Tests between 1955 and 1974 were high-scoring draws. In that time, the little Pakistani Hanif Mohammed and the stylish Jamaican Lawrence Rowe helped themselves to triple-hundreds. There were eight doubles, one each for the Australian openers Bob Simpson and Bill Lawry in an opening stand of 382 in 1965 – and that against an attack comprising Wes Hall, Charlie Griffith, Garry Sobers and Lance Gibbs, all knowingly watching on yesterday from the main stand. Those were the days when "Prof" had to battle as back-up to Hall and Griffith for Barbados.

Cheesed off by such batting domination and emboldened by the emergence of a raft of formable Barbados and West Indies fast bowlers, the authorities did something about it.

The story goes that when Geoff Boycott returned in 1981, he was shocked to be confronted with a green tinge on the bare, brown surface on which he had enjoyed himself on his two previous visits.

"What's this, then?" he demanded of the curator at the time, the late Tommy Peirce. "It's green and it's grass," came the reply. A few days later, Boycott had his off-stump uprooted in Michael Holding's opening over that remains one of Kensington's most memorable moments.

Others came to know and fear the awesome attacks that led the West Indies attack at Kensington over the next two decades as Holding, Andy Roberts, Joel Garner, Colin Croft, Malcolm Marshall and others consistently wreaked havoc.

Between 1978 and 1997, there were 16 outright results. Fourteen were West Indies victories.

The fire of the West Indies attacks and the green of Kensington pitches faded. Once their fortress, the ground has fallen to recent invaders five times in the last five Tests.

They now operate with only two bowlers of Test standard, Jerome Taylor and Fidel Edwards. The latter was the only one who could get any life out of yesterday's unforgiving surface, unlucky to have Strauss missed on a straightforward slip catch at 58 and hurrying both batsmen with his bouncers.

But, in spite of his unplayable yorker that finally upended Strauss, it was once more evident that Daren Powell (average per wicket 46) is an inadequate back-up while Sulieman Benn, the tall left-arm spinner, has not adapted to conditions. Gayle and Ryan Hinds are makeshift trundlers.

By their decision to limit themselves to four main bowlers, England are likely to find themselves similarly short of penetration.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
i100

Other places that have held independence referendums
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur
film

It scooped up an unprecedented 11 Academy Awards when it was first remade in 1959

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'
film

Actors star in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

News
news

News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
Arts and Entertainment
Maxine Peake plays Hamlet at Manchester's Royal Exchange
theatreReview: Maxine Peake brings emotional ferocity to Shakespeare's starring part
News
London's New Year's Eve fireworks event is going to be ticketed this year for the first time at £10 a head
news

Revellers will have to pay to see New Year's Eve fireworks in London

News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
Travel
travel

...and the perfect time to visit them

Sport
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)
football

Newcastle winger reveals he has testicular cancer - and is losing his trademark long hair as a result

News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
news

Man's attempt to avoid being impounded heavily criticised

Life and Style
tech

Try putting that one on your Christmas list
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week