England v New Zealand, 2nd ODI, Edgbaston June 18, 2008

Vettori calls for common sense


Brendon McCullum looks aghast as the umpires inform him the chase is off © Getty Images
 

New Zealand had Brendon McCullum and Scott Styris at the crease, and only needed a further seven runs in the 20th over to win. The match was theirs for the taking, provided they didn't lose any further wickets, and the series would have been levelled. But at 7.25pm, six balls away from ensuring a result for either side, the umpires gave in to the lashing rain at Edgbaston. New Zealand were well and truly robbed, as were a hardy and patient crowd of 16,000.

"It's a game we would have won if we'd played all the overs," Daniel Vettori, the New Zealand captain, said, "or even got that 20th over, so there's a sense of disappointment in the dressing room. It's almost like a loss."

Fortune generally favours the brave, but not on this occasion. New Zealand desperately needed a slice of luck, a break - anything to get their tour back on track after losing the Test series, and receiving a whipping in both the Twenty20 and first ODI. Despite outplaying England, today it was not to be, thanks to the most anal of regulations. Rain and poor light had prevented play from starting until 3pm, but even so, it was decided they would take a 30-minute interval in between innings, in spite of the awful weather forecast due and the excellent light the ground was enjoying at that precise time.

"It's just one of those common-sense solutions [that was needed]," Vettori said. "We bowled one allotment of 13 overs and one of 11, so it wasn't like we were tired or anything. It could have been reduced to ten minutes and we'd have gone straight back out there, [especially] with that knowledge of what weather was coming. If you can take the common-sense approach to most things, they normally get sorted out."

In addition to the interval, England were themselves a little slow in taking nearly an hour to bowl 13 overs, further hampering the game's progress, and Vettori was quick to emphasise the umpires' responsibility. "There were a lot of stoppages. Some were necessary, some were not. I've played for a long, long time and never been fined for a slow over-rate. If some people can do it, then I think you should push the case through."

It's all too easy to blame the umpires on occasions like these, but there was undoubted gamesmanship from England that could easily have been nipped in the bud by Steve Davis and Ian Gould. A stray plastic bag seemed to take an age to be removed, while England's oddly enthusiastic fielding changes appeared to take place after nearly every delivery. Responding to their tardy over-rate, Paul Collingwood insisted that there was no foul play from England or dirty tactics involved.

"It wasn't a tactical thing or anything like that," he said, pointedly. "I guess we were chasing the ball a little bit at times. That happens, and you're not going to get through your overs as quick. It wasn't tactical and I didn't realise it was that slow. I was watching the Duckworth-Lewis all the time and we were there or thereabouts. We were only one wicket away from clinching it really, so it was going down to the wire."

Like Vettori, though, Collingwood blamed the no-result on the fattened interval between innings. "That's probably the disappointment of the day actually," he said. "When you've got a shortened game like that, to have a 30-minute break between innings surprised us a bit, to be honest. We were ready to go out in 10 or 15 minutes.

"It's a shame that it was 30 but it's in the regulations and we can't change it. It needs to be looked at, because we'd all had lunch before the game had started, so there was nothing to do between innings.

"I can understand [the crowd] getting frustrated when it goes down to the wire. It's in the rules and regulations so there's nothing we can do as players, but I do believe it's something that has to be looked out. We could have gone out there in 10 or 15 minutes; from a player's point of view, we were ready to go."

In the current climate, it is unfortunate timing for 50-over cricket to be made to look so foolish. Its younger, hip cousin has it all wrapped up in half the time, after all. Cricket's regulations are often its Achilles heel, and in times like these, when the landscape is changing so quickly, common sense simply must prevail. One-day cricket remains a huge income stream for boards, but its dissenters will be quietly chuckling at the archaic regulations that were played out so perfectly today.

Will Luke is a staff writer at Cricinfo