Pitch report: Sabina Park, Jamaica
Ends: Blue Mountains End, Headley Stand End
Home Team: Jamaica
Test History: 47 Tests; 23 home wins; 11 away wins; 13 draws
Last 10 Tests: 5 home wins; 5 away wins
Last 10 tosses: 9 batted first (4 wins, 5 defeats); 1 bowled first (1 win)
Situated in a somewhat suburban part of Jamaica's capital Kingston, Sabina Park has a rich history and a mean reputation to match the island's tough capital.
Its location in the city's driest microclimate resulted in the hardest and fastest surface in the Caribbean for many years, making it a fearsome place for visiting sides facing up to unrelenting Windies quicks. But the pitch has slowed in recent times, and attempts to reverse the trend through re-laying the wicket have for the most part proved fruitless.
This change is mirrored in the stands, which underwent a significant upgrade for the 2007 World Cup. The capacity of the ground was increased from 15,000 to 20,000 as new concrete stands were erected, but this came at a cost. Views of the picturesque Blue Mountains to the north of the ground were lost to patrons in the George Headley Stand, while the popular 'Mound' Stand in the East was replaced by the 'Party Stand'.
Fortunately the members pavilion, a charming old wooden building which lies square of the wicket on the West side, remained untouched. Legend has it that no member is allowed to utter a woman's name in the pavilion or else he must buy drinks for everyone there, a tradition which stems from an unfortunate incident where a man mentioned a lady's name in reference to having had a liaison with her. The lady's husband happened to be sitting right behind him.
The ground hosted its first Test in 1930 during the West Indies' first home series, and has since seen contrasting fortunes from the first Test triple hundred (by Andy Sandham 325 in 1930) and Sir Garfield Sobers' then-record 365 not out against Pakistan, to the embarrassment suffered when the 1998 Test between England and West Indies was abandoned on the first day with the pitch deemed too dangerous to the batsmen. And then there's England's disastrous 51 all out in 2009, of course.
Last Time Out
The most recent Test at Sabina Park was a year ago, when the West Indies lost to New Zealand by 186 runs late on day four. While the Kiwis made hay in their first innings, scoring more than 500 runs, the wicket deteriorated to help the bowlers.
The Black Caps made 508 for seven declared, with centuries from Kane Williamson and Jimmy Neesham, and half tons from Tom Latham, Ross Taylor and BJ Watling. Spinners took most of the wickets, with Shane Shillingford and Sulieman Benn taking three each.
The Windies were then all out for 262, despite an unbeaten 84 from Shiv Chanderpaul, as Mark Craig continued the spinner trend by taking four wickets. Tim Southee contributed with his pace to take four as well.
The Kiwis then batted again and added 156 runs before declaring, but were eight down, showing how the deck had deteriorated. Pace did the trick this time, with Jerome Taylor and Kemar Roach reducing the Kiwis to 14 for four.
As such, the hosts needed 403 to win, and got nowhere close. Craig, on debut, bagged four more scalps while fellow spinner Ish Sodhi took three, and the Windies were all out for 216. Their top score was a 53 from number 11 Shillingford.
New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum after the above win: "Tim Southee led that attack for us in tough seam bowling conditions. The two young spinners and Trent Boult, they were outstanding, because getting 20 wickets was difficult on that wicket."
He added: "The conditions were helpful but you've still got to be able to apply pressure over a long period of time to be able to then get the rewards later on with those sorts of conditions."
West Indies coach Ottis Gibson said it was more indiscipline than a helpful pitch that affected his batsmen: "By all accounts, after the first day's play, we agreed in the dressing room afterwards that it was a flat pitch, so to have a batting performance like that over two innings is bitterly disappointing."
Happy Hunting Ground
This ground has not really been kind to local batsmen, if stats are to be believed. Of the current players, Shiv Chanderpaul and Chris Gayle have the best records here, and both average under 35 at the ground. Also, neither of them are available. The next best are Marlon Samuels and Denesh Ramdin, with Samuels recording a ton and two fifties in five Tests.
The home bowling stats are slightly more promising, with Jerome Taylor averaging a touch over 14 here, having taken 23 wickets in four Tests. Benn is the other notable name, but he's not in this squad.
The Aussies last played here in 2008, and of that side only Mitchell Johnson and Brad Haddin remain. Neither were overly impressive in that game, though the Aussies did win by 95 runs.
With Kingston being pretty dry at this time of year, rain isn't really on the cards. Day one might see a bit of drizzle, but that's only a 40 percent chance. The wind, however, is expected to pump.
This is not a ground that often ends in a draw. There hasn't been one this century, the last in 1998, and winning margins tend to be rather hefty. Most captains opt to bat first, to get runs on the board before the spinners can come into play, though keeping focus can see some centuries on the scorecard. It used to be a deck for pacemen, and the right line and length can reap rewards, but expect the slow bowlers to flourish.
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