England v Australia, 2nd Twenty20, Old Trafford September 1, 2009

Abandonment deepens Lancashire's gloom


Old Trafford's damaged reputation as an international venue suffered a further setback on Tuesday evening, when the second Twenty20 international between England and Australia was abandoned without a ball being bowled due to waterlogged bowlers' run-ups at the Brian Statham End of the ground - leading to an ECB investigation into an untimely embarrassment for the sport, as well as recriminations among Lancashire's beleaguered executive.

Heavy afternoon rain in Manchester meant that the match was always likely to be under threat, just like Sunday's first Twenty20, which was abandoned after seven balls of England's reply. Umpires Nigel Llong and Peter Hartley conducted their first inspection at the scheduled start time of 7pm, and though the weather cleared sufficiently for all the covers to be removed from the pitch, they announced the abandonment one hour later, after a second inspection, much to the frustration of a capacity Lancashire crowd.

"This is a disaster that could have been avoided, and I'm angry and bitterly disappointed," Lancashire's chief executive, Jim Cumbes, said. "Angry because, to my mind, we were told when we started playing Twenty20 cricket that you should be expected to play in conditions that you wouldn't normally be expected to in first-class cricket, which I understand and accept.

"If that had been Lancashire against Yorkshire with 16,000 people, we would have been playing. That's my honest opinion," he added. "If we can't do that at international level - and I accept, if that's the case, fine, then let's not play it at international level - you are going to meet those conditions more often than not, especially in this country."

The problems arose due to a torrential afternoon thunderstorm, which was followed by steady showers until around 6pm. When the covers were finally removed there was a soft area just behind the stumps, right in the take-off zone for the likes of Brett Lee, Mitchell Johnson and Stuart Broad, at the area where the pitch cover and the sheeting met.

"Why should a two-metre square area stop a game of cricket?" asked Cumbes. "That's my point exactly, I don't think it should have. I don't think it was unsafe, I don't think there's any explaining to do, and the ground did not tread water."

The umpires inspected on two occasions and told the captains, Paul Collingwood and Michael Clarke, that they thought conditions weren't fit before play was abandoned to the sound of booing at 8pm. The ground authorities hadn't even bothered turning the floodlights on, a sure sign that there were serious doubts about the contest all along. It completed a depressing double whammy for Lancashire following Sunday's match which was called off with England limping at 4 for 2 after 1.1 overs of their run-chase.

"I spoke to Michael and we agreed that if it's an area where you are asking your boys to run in 100%, it's going to be pretty dangerous," Collingwood said. "I sympathise with everyone who has turned up, there was another full house. We were desperate to play the game but if conditions aren't fit, they aren't fit."

Clarke said: "We are all disappointed with the result, but I think the decision that has been made was the right decision. We asked the groundsmen to do everything they could to get the ground fit, unfortunately the ground wasn't fit. The reason we tried so hard was because there was a full house and we gave it every shot possible, but the fact is the umpires made the decision the ground wasn't fit and I believe it was the right decision."

Neither captain supported the theory that, because Twenty20 was essentially created as a tool to draw the crowds, the players should have come out regardless of the conditions. "It is entertainment but you've got to have the right conditions to play the game," Collingwood said. "There are international cricketers who would be putting injuries at risk on that kind of surface."

Clarke added: "Any time you put on your country's colours you want to play your best cricket whatever the form of the game. No doubt Twenty20 has become a huge part [of cricket], but you are still representing your country and what to do as well as you can."

The public will get their money back, but that doesn't help Old Trafford's tattered reputation as an international arena. They are currently in the first stage of a massive redevelopment plan with the hope of bringing Test cricket back to the North West, but sadly for Lancashire a roof is not part of the project.

Old Trafford, as with all international grounds in the country, has installed state-of-the-art new drainage beneath a relaid outfield. However, because the club is turning the square to face north-south at the end of the 2010 season, the drainage doesn't run right up to the square itself. Earlier this season the one-day international between England and West Indies at Headingley was abandoned without a ball bowled because their drainage system hadn't bedded in and couldn't cope with a morning deluge.

"The new drainage system is fine, there's no problem with it," Cumbes said. "When I went out to look at the problem spot, I fully expected to be treading water, but there's none there. It's soft, of course it is. I know the umpires have tough decisions to make and I'm fully aware of player safety - I played the game for 20 years myself - but there comes a time when you have to think about the people who paid £50 to come in to the game. Sometimes I think we'd rather play in front of empty stadiums."

It hasn't been a good season for Lancashire when it comes to hosting important Twenty20 matches. Their domestic quarter-final against Somerset was forced into a bowl-out in the indoor school after days of heavy rain left the ground saturated. On that occasion they didn't have to turn 20,000 supporters away ... but they still lost.

Andrew McGlashan is assistant editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • kieron on September 3, 2009, 11:47 GMT

    I agree regarding collingwood I found his behaviour on both days (I was there on Sunday) arrogant in the extreme for such an average player. Chuck him out of the side ! he was rubbish in the ashes both batting and in the field.

  • Grant on September 3, 2009, 11:35 GMT

    Is there any reason why Marylebone Cricket Club spent £1.2 million (no ECB grant) on drainage at Lord's and Lancashire CCC and Yorkshire CCC only spent the minimum ECB grant of £600 000.

    How can it be state-of-the-art if they only have HALF the drainage as what Lord's has? SHAMBLES !!

  • Nicholas on September 3, 2009, 8:57 GMT

    I went to both T20 games at Old Trafford and I am disgusted with the incompetence of both the umpires and the groudstaff. The first match would have had a result if the second innings had started on time when there was little to no rain falling at all, instead the umpires stood in the middle looking all smug and self important and decided to delay the start for 45 minutes. Guess what? The heavy rain started 50 minutes later. Regarding the second match, the head groundsman should be fired immediately. There was no prolonged rain on Tuesday, just a heavy shower mid-afternoon. If the groundstaff cannot keep a pitch and most importantly the bowlers run-ups dry during a heavy shower then they should be replaced and Lancashire should be fined accordingly and banned from holding an international match for some time. There can be no excuses. The pitch was unfit for play and no blame should be passed onto the players. A father and son in front of me had travelled down from Durham. Shocking.

  • Navi on September 3, 2009, 0:35 GMT

    ok maybe they are right that hey dont wanna take risk cuz someone might get injured BUT ECB should have gave eveone's money back cuz they came to see a game and it dint happen so its just not right!! OR they should play another t20 or ODI at smae ground and let eveone in fo free! it will make eveone happy.

  • GRAHAM on September 2, 2009, 22:04 GMT

    As a ex 1st class Umpire, I do know the laws regarding ground, weather and light (law 3). Ok, the run up at the Brian Statham end wasn't deemed to be fit, however the umpires/ groundsman can put matting down over the boggy area as they see fit.(according to the law book) If that wasn't a option then i would have asked the groundsmen to cut out the boggy area and replace it by a dry piece of turf from beyond the boundry.Maybe i am out of order suggesting it but at least i would be seen as doing something positive to try and get the game started.When all is said and done we are talking about 20/20 cricket and a packed house.After all they do say that they are in the entertainment industry.Ps I bet if it was a IPL match in India playing for mega bucks then those same players would not have been concerned about the conditons.

  • martin on September 2, 2009, 15:36 GMT

    I wonder if I am the only Glamorgan supporter positivley purring at last nights sad spectacle,the Lancashire gang on the sky sports team were praying that the Cardiff test would be a shambles from the organisation to the pitch to the outfield as much as I love Bumble it was good to see him squirming pity Athers was not there as well,all that said its a pity that the public was treated so badly there should have been some sort of match played whatever the conditions,i have played local cricket for many years and if i get injured on a soggy pitch I dont get paid these guys need a reality check

  • Michael on September 2, 2009, 15:27 GMT

    Why couldnt they have agreed to bowl from the other end throughout the match? Unusual admittedly, but hardly a problem. The batsmen just change ends at the end of the over. Be a good pub quiz question. Tanters

  • nick on September 2, 2009, 14:38 GMT

    Come come now Mr.Coombs - enough already please. It really does sound like a pathetic schoolboy trying to apportion blame elsewhere for his misdemeanors doesn't it? What he is suggesting is not far removed from saying that it is ok not to wear a seat belt if your only going to the local shops - especially if there is a crowd waiting there for you!! Its simply ludicrous. Any one of those players would have wanted to be on the field last night - heaven knows their egos would have demanded it following Sunday. But here in the 21st century Mr.Coombs, we abide by what is knowb as duty of care. You and your staff stuffed up Coombsy - if I may be familiar for a moment. Explain to your board, the ECB and the ICC (for what that is worth) as to why an international venue had covers barely suitable to local park cricket. With luck and a large dose of old boys club - a head or two might not roll.

  • Brian on September 2, 2009, 14:06 GMT

    If there is anyone to blame for last nights fiasco it is Lancashire County Cricket Club. Why were the bowlers run ups like a bog whereas the rest of the ground was perfectly playable ? They have spent a lot of money on new drainage yet a small part of the ground was sodden. Hearing Jim Cumbes explanation for this as 'the footmarks had sweated under the covers' is utterly laughable. Sadly the incompetence of this Club, the worst of all the Test Grounds, shows they are still unfit to hold International Cricket. The people of Manchester deserve better.

  • Daniel on September 2, 2009, 12:56 GMT

    Part of cricket is playing to the conditions. Surely adaptability is a skill we value in International cricketers? As far as I'm concerned there should be only one game we call cricket. It is the same game whether it is played by two countries or two villages. If your fast bowler can't run in and bowl fat at one end because of the conditions then you do what every village/league/county team does, you adapt to the situation! You only bowl the quickie from the other end, or you get him to bowl something different. If backward point is wet, you set a field that doesn't include backward point and bowl to that field. The fielding team attempts to adapt to the conditions and if the batting side is good enough to take advantage then good for them.

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