England cricket: Slow start, but this pitch could spark into life, while the one in Antigua didn’t


NASSER HUSSAIN: It’s been a slow start but this pitch could spark into life… while the one in Antigua didn’t, there are signs that the Kensington Oval surface could flick like a switch

  • The ball continues to dominate the bat in Test cricket like it has in recent years
  • The pitch could change as the series between England and West Indies goes on 
  • England’s huge travelling support will be hoping that is the case going forward

Ball has dominated bat in Test cricket over the last couple of years, whether it has swung and seamed in England, spun square in India or done a bit in the Ashes on what have traditionally been flat Australian pitches.

The general rule is that when ball slightly dominates bat, it makes for great viewing, although I would argue — with some agreement from England batsmen, no doubt — that it has potentially gone too far towards the bowlers recently.

On the flip side, we have been spoiled as viewers with lots of results cricket, lots of entertainment and very few dull draws.

The general rule is that when the ball slightly dominates the bat, it makes for great viewing

No doubt, England's batsmen would agree that it has potentially gone too far towards the bowlers recently

No doubt, England’s batsmen would agree that it has potentially gone too far towards the bowlers recently

Yet in the last fortnight, we have returned to a bygone era of Test matches best described as slow burners, when it took five days to possibly produce a result and draws were more commonplace. 

An era in which batting conditions were a lot friendlier.

I don’t mind people paying good money to watch being given a full five days of Test cricket but there is a balance. 

Were England fans getting good value in Antigua? Did they enjoy their experience? Or would they have preferred a quicker pitch and a quicker game?

The match that finished on Wednesday between Pakistan and Australia provided the thrill of the fifth day fight for a draw, fine Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan hundreds and a home team rearguard of great character. 

You can get a lot of pride out of a hard-fought draw.

To be honest, I don’t mind flat pitches if they deteriorate. The one in Antigua didn’t and the two in Rawalpindi and Karachi haven’t. 

Mohammad Rizwan (pictured) and Babar Azam scored hundreds in the match between Pakistan and Australia

Mohammad Rizwan (pictured) and Babar Azam scored hundreds in the match between Pakistan and Australia

For me, a pitch must offer some lateral movement — either up and down or sideways — if not at the start of a game, by its end.

And there have been some signs at the Kensington Oval, despite the slow progress on the opening morning, which are warning me to be careful judging this one too early.

Already, I have seen a couple spin, albeit slowly, and so we shouldn’t automatically connect this surface with others we have seen of late.

Some pitches change like a switch has been flicked and suddenly turn square on the final day, totally changing the pace of the game and this could easily be one.

With first-day runs on the board, courtesy of another Joe Root hundred, England’s huge travelling support will be hoping that is the case.

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