Lancashire exonerated in cancellation enquiry
Following an extensive enquiry into the events that led to the abandonment of the second Twenty20 between England and Australia, the ECB has recommended that a reserve playing surface should be prepared for all future international fixtures, and that - in the event of the sort of exceptional circumstances that forced the cancellation of the September 1 contest - an amendment to the playing conditions should be sought to ensure that the match goes ahead regardless - which, in the case of that particular Twenty20 fixture, might have involved bowling all overs from one end.
The ECB launched their enquiry after the on-field umpires, Peter Hartley and Nigel Llong, were forced to abandon the match primarily because of what they considered to be a 'dangerous' and 'unstable' area on the bowlers' run up at the Brian Statham End of the ground. It was also deemed that there were other areas of the ground that were 'marginal' in terms of their suitability for international cricket.
The enquiry determined that the cause of the problem was the fact that the new drainage system, installed at Old Trafford in the winter of 2008-09, did not include parts of what is to become the new square in 2011, when the surface is relayed to face North-South, as opposed to East-West as it does currently. To do so, the ECB said, would have resulted in further extensive works having to take place in 2010.
The safety of the players was deemed to have been paramount in making the decision, and although Lancashire were able to start their County Championship match against Sussex the following day, the umpire for that match, Neil Mallender, stated that he would not have declared the ground fit for international cricket. Nevertheless, the ECB report exonerated Lancashire for their part in the abandonment, praising their ground covers as "excellent", and pointing out that there had been an unusual volume of rain in the days leading up to the match, exposing those parts of the ground without the new drainage.
The report made six recommendations in all:
David Collier, the ECB chief executive, said: "We thank Gordon Hollins, the ECB's head of venue partnerships, for his thorough investigation of the events surrounding this abandonment. We are bitterly disappointed for the 17,000 spectators who had spent time and money attending the match and aim to do everything in our powers to ensure play whenever possible.
"The Board have received a series of recommendations which they will now progress - including the suggestion that drainage facilities and permanent floodlights for matches awarded from 2011 become a significant part of the balanced scorecard used when the Major Match Group award such matches."
The ECB will also recommend a new match protocol for International Twenty20 to the ICC as a matter of urgency.