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  Friday, 29 March, 2002, 12:02 GMT
Guide to the grounds
Bourda is the only non-island Test venue in the West Indies
Bourda will stage the opening Test match
Former West Indies fast bowler Colin Croft offers a personal view of the Caribbean's five Test venues.

Bourda Oval, Guyana

Home of the Georgetown Cricket Club, this is one of the smallest Test grounds in the Caribbean, holding only 12,000 spectators. When properly spruced up, though, it is probably the most beautiful ground in the region with its mostly wooden décor and billiard table-like playing area.

The pitch has changed from being the best batting strip around during the 70s and 80s to being somewhat unpredictable these days, with inconsistent bounce and varying pace, so batting is not easy.

The biggest problem playing in Guyana is perhaps the weather. Few Tests are unaffected by the rain.

Walsh strikes against South Africa
Courtney Walsh took his 500th Test wicket in Port of Spain
Queen's Park Oval, Trinidad & Tobago

Privately owned by the Queens Park Cricket Club, this is easily the largest ground in the Caribbean with seats for about 30,000 fans.

The outfield is well grassed, but normally somewhat thick and slightly rough since both international soccer and cycling take place there.

Definitely a result pitch, which offers bowlers, both fast and especially slow, much more help than any of the other pitches in the Caribbean.

Many players have made centuries, but batting is quite difficult, especially on days four and five. Normally the team that bats first is at an advantage.

Barbados tests are well supported
The Hall and Griffith Stand in Bridgetown
Kensington Oval, Barbados

In years gone by, this used to be the best "cricketing arena" in the Caribbean, with its fast, bouncy pitch and small, flat outfield.

Batsmen love this pitch since the ball comes on nicely, despite slowing down somewhat in recent years, and the bounce is as consistent as can be had anywhere in the region.

Brian Lara certainly enjoyed himself in making 153 not out against the Australians in 2000, the batsman playing an almost lone hand to win the Test for the West Indies.

It was here too that Alex Stewart made two centuries in one game to win a Test for England the last time they toured the Caribbean.

Lara breaks Gary Sobers' record
Brian Lara made his Test record 375 at St John's
Antigua Recreation Ground, Antigua & Barbuda

The newest Test venue in the Caribbean, staging its first match in 1981. This ground has come a long way since then, and is run by the Antigua Cricket Association.

Fast, true and bouncy initially, this pitch usually settles down to rival the Kensington Oval as the best for batting in the Caribbean.

There is little help for spinners and the faster bowlers are the ones who will probably thrive here.

The outfield is quick and the capacity, about 14,000, just about average for the Caribbean. This is a good cricketing arena, where batsmen would probably hold the sway.

The West Indies v England Test was abandoned in 1998
The Sabina Park pitch was poor in 1998
Sabina Park Oval, Jamaica

This pitch shot to infamy in 1998 when for only the second time, a Test match was called off because it was deemed too dangerous as England felt the wrath of Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose.

Like the Kensington Oval in Barbados, the pitch used to be fast and true in the 70s and 80s. With its reputation tarnished somewhat, the officials at the Sabina Park have worked diligently to get the pitch back to its original state.

It is now a good track to bat on once again, but bowlers, especially the faster ones, can still enjoy themselves too.

The stands hold about 15,000 and the outfield is somewhat like the Queens Park Oval, adequate but with some rough patches.

See also:

21 Mar 02 |  Cricket
Lara relishes challenge
20 Mar 02 |  Cricket
Sehwag setback for India
20 Mar 02 |  Cricket
Kapil: Cut down on cricket
13 Mar 02 |  Cricket
Windies shake up squad
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