Rain ruins another Kent festival
Kent 258 (Northeast 53, Leach 5-36) drew with Worcestershire 67 for 0
At precisely one minute past three o'clock on Wednesday afternoon a game which had begun in the freshly-minted sunshine of Sunday morning was finally put to sleep.
After waiting around five hours for some of the saturated areas on the Nevill Ground's square and outfield to dry out, umpires Jeremy Lloyds and Steve O'Shaughnessy finally decided that conditions were not going to improve sufficiently to allow the cricketers to play professional sport safely.
The match will be remembered primarily for Joe Leach's maiden first-class five-wicket haul, Sam Northeast's half-century but very little else. It is doubtful whether Wisden's sub-editors will need to prune the submitted copy about this game when they prepare the 2015 Almanack.
Perhaps a hundred spectators were not deterred by the heavy overnight rain and turned up on Wednesday morning, hoping to see two sides battle it out for first-innings bonus points. By mid-afternoon the pints of Pig and Porter and Gravesend Guzzler were slipping down very nicely in the CAMRA tent. "What a lovely place!" declared a man making his very first visit to Tunbridge Wells. "You could have a cricket ground here." Well, yes, you could.
For officials of the local club the last three days of this game have been familiar exercises in frustration management. They are almost used to Kent's visits being spoiled by rain, and attention turns now to ensuring that next year's festival takes place.
But for the umpires this sort of game is, to quote Lloyds, "horrible". The pair of them had inspected the pitch and square on many, many occasions since the rain arrived on Monday but the conditions beat them. It would be a brave man or, more likely, a foolish one, who would argue that they had not done their best to get the show on.
"First and foremost, Steve and I made the decisions together," Lloyds said, as he sat amid the clutter of the umpires' room at the end of the match. "The groundstaff worked really hard to get all the surface water off the sheets and down the sides with the water-hogger and the hogger is a great invention if you just want to take off surface water.
"But the trouble is that once you keep on rolling over the same area time and time again, it compacts it and seals it, and when you put your foot down, water still comes up and you can't get any more out with the hogger. That, as far as we're concerned, is deemed to be unsafe, because you can't have fielders trying to stand up and move one way or the other and feeling they can't move that quickly.
"If someone has an injury, which they could do very easily, we're the ones that people look at and ask whether it was ever safe to be playing in the first place. Obviously, player safety is paramount. It has to be fit."
On Wednesday morning the square and surrounds at the Railway End of the Nevill Ground had taken all the water they could hold. There was no fresh breeze or sun to help the drying process take place. Instead there was a slate-grey sky and the briefest suggestion of rain around lunchtime.
Ironically, perhaps, a half-hour shower would have settled matters. As it turned out, Lloyds and O'Shaughnessy waited to see what might be possible. The answer was that nothing at all could be managed. Water was still coming up in important fielding areas like backward point, gully, mid-off and mid-on. Eventually, to coin the phrase, the umpires pulled the plug.
Kent take seven points from the game, Worcestershire, eight. Rob Key's men next take on Gloucestershire in a NatWest Blast t20 game at Canterbury on Friday evening, when Worcestershire entertain Northamptonshire at New Road. The county cricket caravan rolls on.