County view July 31, 2007

Counting the cost

Although there is the best part of two months left in this season, 2007 will be remembered for the rain



A familiar sight at New Road this season © Getty Images
Although the best part of two months is still left in this season, 2007 will be remembered for the rain. When Worcestershire took the field against Surrey at Guildford last week it was the first time they'd played in the Championship since the middle of June. Their home ground is once again under water and it will take a miraculous turnaround before there are any further games at New Road this summer.

For all the sympathy over New Road's plight, they could have avoided the recent ugly affair over replays and points if they had moved the Championship match against Kent to Kidderminster. At the time, Mark Newton wanted to safeguard a floodlit Pro40 match, which still had to be moved to Derby and was eventually washed out too. The chain of events ended with both sides being awarded four points, with Kent understandably fuming at the decision and Worcestershire staying unsurprisingly quiet.

Given the state of the summer, the ECB didn't have much choice but to scrap the replay because of all the other matches being abandoned. However, when four counties rejected a proposal that Kent should be awarded nine points, a possible conclusion would have been to dock Worcestershire eight points - the penalty for preparing an unfit pitch. No doubt this would have led to fallout from the Worcestershire point of view, but as everyone has said throughout this soggy affair, these are "exceptional circumstances".

How Newton must have looked on wistfully as Lord's turned from a boating lake into a playable ground within the space of two hours on the second day against India. But any dreams he may have of one day being able pull off similar reversals at New Road won't true for two reasons. One, the River Severn isn't moving, and two, most grounds aren't fortunate enough to have the money to invest in huge drainage systems.

MCC spent £1.25 million on re-laying the outfield and that sort of money doesn't exist in the county game, especially for those grounds not on the international rota. Even during the first floods in early July, Worcestershire lost more than £150,000 from their washed out Twenty20 and Pro40 matches.

As Sambit Bal said in his piece from the opening day at Trent Bridge, state-of-the-art drainage facilities should be of paramount importance for international grounds. Sadly, in the county game there is a strong distinction between the haves and have-nots.

It must be noted that MCC has more capabilities than most to get the best facilities around, but Old Trafford too has invested in a hover cover, and over the last few years it has made a huge difference in protecting the main pitch. County grounds without that luxury have to adapt, which may mean occasionally moving to an alternative venue. It won't always be ideal, but opposition - and supporters - deserve cricket to be played.

There is a suggestion doing the rounds that one of the two Lord's Tests each summer could be under threat from the upcoming grounds. But can they compete? The three newcomers racing up on the heels of Lord's (and other established Test venues) are Chester-le-Street, the Rose Bowl and Cardiff.

There is a suggestion doing the rounds that one of the two Lord's Tests each summer could be under threat from the upcoming grounds. But can they compete? The three newcomers racing up on the heels of Lord's (and other established Test venues) are Chester-le-Street, the Rose Bowl and Cardiff. The Riverside has already had a chance this season to show how it can handle itself, and performed well during the West Indies Test given the horrendous conditions on the first day. Judgment on the new Sophia Gardens, in Cardiff, will have to be reserved because it isn't yet finished. However a decent drainage system should be top priority.

The interesting case is the Rose Bowl, seemingly a ground that should have few faults. The club is funded by millionaire Rod Bransgrove and they certainly don't have trouble attracting the big-name players - Shane Warne, Stuart Clark and Kevin Pietersen. But when it comes to the stadium, there seems to be no end of problems. Each one-day- and Twenty20 international has been accompanied by traffic jams stretching along the south coast and endless complaints about a transport system which can't cope.

Recently the club was forced to close all its car parks (except for a small tarmaced area outside the pavilion). The press releases stated: "The ground in the grass car parks is heavily waterlogged in many places and a final inspection has concluded that the fields are unsuitable for vehicle movement. Hampshire car parking season-ticket holders will not be able to park on-site and there will be no pay-on-the-day car parking available for the general public". However there was no indication about what spectators were meant to do until a park-and-ride was set up for the weekend's Pro40 match against Essex.

Anyone who has tried to get to the Rose Bowl knows it's a fair distance from the train station. Of course, many counties are in difficult situations but Hampshire continues to snipe when it isn't offered the major internationals. With all their money, surely some hard-surfaced car parks aren't beyond them.

Old 'uns but good 'uns

Ottis Gibson's 10 for 47 for Durham - the first all-ten haul in the Championship since Richard Johnson's in 1994 - hasn't been the only impressive performance from an elder statesman in recent weeks.

Darren Gough claimed six wickets against Surrey, a haul matched by Robert Croft against Derbyshire. Mark Ramprakash and John Crawley continue to churn out runs - Ramprakash with his 40th hundred for Surrey, and Crawley with an unbeaten 113 on a spicy Rose Bowl surface - while Mark Ealham took 4 for 43 off 31overs, proving again that pace isn't everything.

There have been a few recent comments that players of this age clog up the system, but as long as they keep producing the results supporters will welcome them with open arms.

Andrew McGlashan is a staff writer on Cricinfo