Cow Corner

Memories of 1998

Cow Corner

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When England walk out at Sabina Park on Wednesday they will be hoping for a better pitch than met the tourists ten years ago.

As Mike Atherton and Alec Stewart strode out in Kingston, Jamaica on Thursday January 29 1998 they soon realised they faced what a club cricketer of a certain mediocrity sees every Saturday.

We all know the first XI and the seconds - you know the guys with that annoying mix of youth, keenness and talent - get to play on manicured strips prepared by some old boy from the club who has been cutting the pitch since before the War (often Boer).

But if you ply your weekend trade in the 'Home Counties Division Seven for the Genetically Average At Sport' or equivalent, you get thrown out to pasture often on a council pitch which some Asbo has kindly decided to ride his nicked Moped 150cc Gas Scooter over a good length the night before.

So you can imagine the surprise of the pampered England team and especially the captain, he of Manchester Grammar School and Cambridge University, when he went to toss up on a pitch so uneven that it looked like some cross between the crater of the moon, a sheet of corrugated iron and Stephen Hendry's face.

It certainly made for a lively 56 minutes of play of cricket before in the first time in Test match history a match was called off because of the state of the pitch.

Interesting if you were watching, down right dangerous if you were batting. England's top order had been hit seven times in the first 10 overs and were 17-3 when play was called off.

Next man in John Crawley was pacing the dressing room having acquired so much kit it looked like that he had flown straight in from Kosovo.

As Angus Fraser reminisced in The Independent:

"A television had been installed in the dressing room and half the squad were squashed around it watching the early action. A few eyebrows were raised in the first over when a delivery from Courtney Walsh kicked of a length and flew over Mike Atherton's shoulder.

"It did not take long before everyone realised something was not quite right. Those not playing in the game would rush off the balcony and into the dressing-room as another ball went through the top of the underprepared pitch.

"As they made their way to the television to watch a replay, all you heard was "Did you see that?". Those still to bat had, but they did not want to talk about it. Everyone was looking through people's bags for extra padding and a bigger chest-guard. Philip Tufnell was the most amusing.

"He had never been the bravest but on this occasion he surpassed himself. If he had batted, he would not have needed to put on any sun protection because every part of his body was covered by something. If there had been a mattress in the dressing-room he would have tried to fit it under his shirt."

The game ended with Stewart having made the finest nine not out of his career, Graham Thorpe needing an X-ray on his damaged finger and Tuffers requiring a clean pair of pants.

It was the start of a bad series for England as they lost 3-1 to a West Indies side that were in sharp decline. Greenidge and Haynes had been replaced by two pub players from the Durham League in the shape of Philo Wallace and Clayton Lambert and England still managed to make them look like well Greenidge and Haynes.

Andrew Strauss' side will hope for better this week. 

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