November 20, 2013

Done in by darkness

New Zealand search for light but all they get is rain

Most sporting events have a climax, a finish, a point at which the event, having continued for a certain length of time, comes to a definite and undeniable halt: the referee blows his whistle, the chequered flag is flapped about, the bandy-legged winner staggers across the finishing line, the last dart is flung, the final black is sunk, and the lights go up.

Cricket isn't like that. A cricket match might start roughly when it is supposed to start, if you're lucky, but will then meander through the afternoon, stopping periodically for rain, hail, sleet, strong winds, swarms of bees, tea, sandwiches, sightscreen adjustment, on-field consultations, ball-integrity investigations, sawdust-carrying and hourly drinkies.

It is possible for a cricket match to end dramatically, with a big six off the last ball of the last over of the last innings. Usually it doesn't. In fact, it can sometimes be hard to tell when a cricket match has finished, and only after various dignitaries have stood about scrutinising the sky, peering at the scoreboard, and consulting charts, meters and regulations, can the end of the cricket match be officially announced and the cause of death established.

Last Saturday's game in Dambulla ended in darkness at 17:40. New Zealand were unhappy because they wanted to play in the dark; Sri Lanka were happy because they didn't want to play in the dark, and the spectators were bemused because a game of cricket had been scheduled to reach a conclusion in the dark. Even fans of day-night cricket would have to admit that it's not as much fun without the floodlights.

The unpredictably dark darkness wasn't the only problem, as far as Kyle Mills was concerned. He was also annoyed about the unpredictable dampness of the monsoon season. This is the second time New Zealand Cricket have booked a November break in Sri Lanka, and anyone who sat through Mike Hesson's 2012 holiday slides knows how the last one went:

"This is me, standing outside the hotel holding an umbrella. That's me again, I'm holding an umbrella in that one. There we are at the ground, with our umbrellas. Ah, this is an interesting photo: here I'm holding Brendon's umbrella while he tries to get my umbrella to open properly. Non-functioning umbrellas were a feature of that tour, I'm afraid, which is why I set up the Umbrella Integrity Commissioning Committee as soon as we got back. Now this is me in Colombo, looking a bit bedraggled. That was the day I left the hotel without my umbrella. We had a good chuckle about that one."

Still, I don't think New Zealand can complain too much about the outcome in Dambulla. Once again, they had a sporting total to chase in a rain-shortened game, and once again they conspired to make a dog's breakfast of it. At 26 for 5 they were on the ropes, and had this been a boxing match, the referee would have been standing in front of a groggy Mills, counting to ten in an overly dramatic fashion, while Angelo Mathews skipped around in the background, declaring himself to be the greatest.

Then again, had this been a boxing match, they probably wouldn't have arranged to stage the last round in the dark.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England. He tweets here

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  • Rawal on November 20, 2013, 9:58 GMT

    That umbrellas bit is hilarious! Well done!

  • Ehab on November 20, 2013, 8:18 GMT

    Lol. This what I love about cricket. It is absolutely bonkers!!

  • sachit on November 20, 2013, 5:26 GMT

    NZ and SL must be the two wettest places on earth to play cricket. I think these two countries should one day co-host a ODI world cup, then we will have all 10 or 12 participating teams as joint champions. That will give England, NZ and RSA the chance to finally be declared world cup winners.

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