2 The halfway line

Talk to cricketers of a bygone era and they will tell you that batting has become much easier since pitches were completely covered during rain breaks in the 1970s. Statistics strongly support their case. In 2008,46 batsmen averaged over 40 in English first class cricket. 40 years earlier, 10 players achieved the same.

There will be no going back to uncovered pitches. Apart from the fact that modern players could not cope, the commercial world requires weather related delays to be kept to a minimum, and one can only imagine what the health and safety experts would make of professional sportsmen running on wet grass.

We have seen the worst and the best of Antiguan ground management over the last few days. Few, if any, other grounds could have made the horlicks achieved at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, but can anyone seriously envisage an English ground being Test Match fit from a state of partial dereliction within 40 hours, as the Antigua Recreation Ground was? That the pitch had been used mostly for football since the ground was abandoned as a first class cricket venue in 2006 makes the transformation all the more laudable.

England's first innings score suggested to many that the wicket remained as good as those on which Brian Lara twice broke the record Test score. Andrew Flintoff might beg to differ. Blasted out by a daisy-cutting shooter from Jerome Taylor, Flintoff was the first victim of the halfway line horror. Several deliveries pitched on the thinly disguised football pitch line, which runs straight across the pitch just short of a good length for bowlers from the Factory Road end. His was the first to take a wicket. Flintoff was desperately unlucky that his second ball was one such delivery, virtually unplayable, but with his bowling boots on, he may yet see the funny side of being the only member of England's cosy top six not to reach 50.

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