March 31, 2002

Wet summer looks like it will have the final say

New Zealand's wet summer looks set to have the final say and squeeze any hope of the home team sharing the National Bank Test Series with England in the third Test at Eden Park in Auckland.

Play always looked doubtful on today's second day as heavy overnight rain left pools of water in front of the grandstands on the northern and southern boundaries of the ground.

Ground staff attempted to mop the ground up between the showers but there was no drying whatsoever.

The covers did come off during the morning for about an hour but that was the only time as frequent passing showers of drizzle kept the covers on.

Having made their second inspection of the ground just after the lunch break, the match umpires Doug Cowie and Srinivas Venkataraghavan said they would look again at the tea break, as long as there were no further showers.

However, just after 2pm a heavy shower put paid to any hopes of a clearance in the weather and play was abandoned for the day.

The forecast for Auckland for the next few days is not encouraging. For tomorrow it is for cloudy and showery, although south-west winds of around 40km/h offer some hope of drying conditions.

Tuesday's forecast is for a few showers clearing while, Wednesday, the scheduled last day is for fine weather.

New Zealand's poor batting start in the 54 overs available on the first day on Saturday has done them no favours. In conditions that will have eased little there is at least satisfaction that New Zealand has runs on the board, with the prospect of more to come, but England is in a position to control the game and can dictate the pace for what remains of what will be at best, 315 overs of play left.

But even that must be debateable given the way in which darkness is now falling so quickly after 5.30pm. Extra time will be added to each day's play but it does seem that the choice of a half hour to the beginning and end of play does not best suit the circumstances and would be better at 45 minutes earlier in the day with 15 minutes at the end.

If nothing else, a series loss by New Zealand will highlight some issues for ground authorities in New Zealand especially in relation to drainage and drying in front of new grandstands that have been built, in Auckland and Christchurch.

While they are geared primarily to rugby, there appears to have been little consideration of the effects on cricket, which given the way rugby has been given priority over everything else at these grounds will surprise no-one. But how much more money those same authorities might have saved themselves had they done the job properly from the outset is something that must be learnt from this whole exercise.

The work has been done on the portable pitch technology which does appear to have been successful, now the job is to attack the issues of pitch coverings and outfield drainage and drying.