Pitch report – Kensington Oval, Barbados

New Zealand

We run the rule over the venue for the series decider between the West Indies and New Zealand in Bridgetown, which will host a landmark 50th Test match.

<b>Established:</b> 1871<br><b>Capacity:</b> 28,000<br><b>Floodlights:</b> Yes<br><b>Ends:</b> Malcolm Marshall End, Joel Garner End <br><b>Home Team:</b> Barbados<br><b>Test History:</b> 49 Tests; 22 home wins; 10 away wins; 17 draws<br><b>Last 10 Tests:</b> 2 home win; 6 away wins; 2 draws<br><b>Last 10 tosses:</b> 6 batted first (1 win, 1 draw, 4 defeats); 4 bowled first (1 win, 1 draw, 2 defeats)

<b>Overview</b><br>The most impressive ground in the Caribbean, the Kensington Oval was demolished at the end of the 2004-05 season and completely rebuilt ahead of the 2007 World Cup, when it hosted the final. But while the 28,000 capacity ground has a 'straight out of the box' look to it, the stadium has more than its fair share of history.

The piece of earth on which it stands was originally a pasture on a plantation west of the capital city Bridgetown and has been home to the Pickwick Cricket Club since 1882. The ground hosted its first international match in 1895, when Slade Lucas' side – a rag-tag bunch of English amateurs of whom only five had played first-class cricket – visited the island, and was the venue for the West Indies' first Test when they took on England in 1930.

As the easternmost island in the Caribbean, Barbados is often the first or last port of call for travellers and is certainly the most frequented, so it's not unusual for foreigners to outnumber locals at the ground, particularly when England are involved.

<b>Last Time Out</b><br>March 2013 brought a low-scoring affair that ended in less than three days. Ill-discipline among the batsmen and the bowlers' ability to capitalise – more than an adverse pitch – contributed to the short nature. All out for 211 and 107, Zimbabwe conceded 307 and 12 for one. Spinner Shane Shillingford snared the Man of the Match award on the back of a nine-wicket haul.

<b>They Said</b><br>"We will have a look at the pitch and see what it holds. Kensington always has a little bit in it for the bowlers as well. Hopefully we'll get a very good surface in Barbados, one that helps our quick bowlers a little bit more than maybe Trinidad and Jamaica. Our fast bowlers are bowling fantastically well so hopefully we get a pitch that gives them a little bit of support and they can continue to bowl the way they have been bowling and bowl us to a series win." – West Indies coach <b>Ottis Gibson</b>

<b>Happy Hunting Ground</b><br>The veteran <b>Shivnarine Chanderpaul</b> is unrivaled here, and has maintained an average of well over 60 across 1,412 runs in 30 innings. That tally includes four centuries and nine half-tons. Bowling-wise, it's seamer <b>Fidel Edwards</b> to lead the home charge. The right-arm pace ace has picked up 13 scalps in three matches at 18.53 apiece.

New Zealand are without any survivors from 2002's Test, They've never played an ODI here either, but seamer <b>Tim Southee</b> will remember 2010's World Twenty20 fixture in Bridgetown.

<b>Weather Forecast</b><br>Scattered thundershowers are predicted in the lead-up and the five days, with Sunday seemingly the wettest, so here's hoping Mum Nature's sodden mood doesn't spoil an intriguing series decider. Temperatures, meanwhile, will prove typical of the region – hot and humid. Highs of 27 degrees Celsius expected.

<b>Conclusion</b><br>A venue steeped in history is no longer the fortress it used to be for the West Indies. This week's fixture might allow the home side to marginally rectify a record that has brought a mere two wins (one against lowly Zimbabwe) in the last 11 Tests here.

Pitches at 'The Mecca', as locals often refer to it, are generally rock-hard with plenty of pace and bounce, although with the ball coming onto the willow the batsmen often thrive. The redevelopment of the ground, which was widely slated in the Barbadian press after the World Cup when the true costs had been realised, does not appear to have noticeably affected the pitch.

Provided the sodden weather steers clear for long enough, this is a 40-wicket pitch. From 1978 to 2004, just three teams batted first upon winning the toss in 24 Tests – as bowlers looked to take advantage of helpful conditions early on, but that trend appears to be changing and whoever wins the toss on Thursday will almost certainly bat first. If, that is, overhead conditions – and impending inclement weather – don't dictate otherwise.

The Windies won't be presented to make any personnel changes, other than perhaps a like-for-like in Shillingford ahead of slow bowler Sulieman Benn. The Black Caps might want to give specialist seamer Neil Wagner a run ahead of all-rounder Jimmy Neesham.