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On this day: 1998 Jamaica Test between West Indies and England lasted just 10.1 overs

On 29 January, 1998, one of the shortest Test matches in the history of cricket was held between West Indies and England in Sabina Park, Jamaica.

The match was abandoned after just 61 deliveries because of the unsafe nature of the pitch. It was the first time in the 121-year-long history of Test cricket that a match had to be abandoned due to the nature of the pitch.

In the first Test of the England-West Indies series, the English team was 17 for 3 after 10 overs in the Test, with Alec Stewart being the highest scorer at 9 runs. In the span of just over an hour, the team’s physio Wayne Morton had run out to the field multiple times.

As Nasser Hussain came on to the crease, he was reportedly greeted by Stewart with the words, “It’s Saturday, it’s eight o’clock, it’s the lottery”.

The game was finally abandoned after umpires Srinivas Venkataraghavan and Steve Bucknor called off the match due to the unsafe pitch.

What led to the pitch being so unsafe?

The pitch had been dug up and re-laid three months before the West Indies and England match, leading to speculation about whether it would even be ready in time for the game.

When Hussain took a close look at the pitch the day before the start of the Test, he stated that he found groundsmen “trying to fill the gaps with Polyfilla or whatever they could find”. 

On the morning of the game, England captain Mike Atherton found that the Sabina Park pitch looked like it could crumble at any moment, with gaps of up to three inches in some places.

When the match began, the uneven pitch led to England’s batsmen getting hit on the forearms and knuckles multiple times, as they tried to fend off deliveries by Curtly Ambrose and other bowlers.

With three wickets already down in 10 overs, and his teammates getting hit multiple times by the ball, Atherton walked up to the umpires and stated that the match was a “farce”.

The umpires then had a discussion and called the game off. The match was drawn between England and West Indies. This led to the game being one of the shortest in the history of Test cricket at just 62 deliveries.

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