June 26, 2008

What a way to finish

Eleven games that came to strange finishes

The ODI between England and New Zealand at Edgbaston ended in farcical scenes when the players trooped off the field one over before a result could have been declared. Cricinfo looks back on 11 other games that came to somewhat curious conclusions

Arthur Carr bowls with his fielders all wearing suits after the match resumed with Hampshire requiring one run to win © The Cricketer International

Hampshire v Nottinghamshire, Southampton, 1930
Having to turn up on the final day for a few balls to finish a match can be a real frustration. Every effort had been made to complete Hampshire's match against Nottinghamshire on day two, with the extra half hour being taken, but at seven o'clock the stumps were pulled up with Hampshire needing just one more to win. However, even though everyone had to front up on the final day, you would at least think most teams would bother to get changed into whites. That was too much fuss for Nottinghamshire and they all went out to the middle in their normal clothes. Two balls were all that were needed for Alex Kennedy, the England batsman, to hit the winning run, barely time for anyone to get a grass stain on their nicely pressed trousers.

Hampshire v Glamorgan, Bournemouth, 1969
Waiting for the umpires to call a dead game off because of rain can be frustrating, but it's usually best to stay at the ground until the word is official. On the final day of Glamorgan's visit to Hampshire there had been steady, but not heavy, rain and there appeared little chance of any further play. The Hampshire players were so keen to start their journey home that they packed their bags and left. Except, the umpires hadn't called the match off. And at 5.30 they decided play could resume, but there was only one team at the ground. Everyone hung around in the middle for two minutes before Glamorgan were declared winners. Hampshire lodged a complaint, saying there was no chance of a result; at an MCC hearing the result was later downgraded to a draw.

Pakistan v England, Karachi, 1969
Early on the third day student rioting became so bad that Colin Cowdrey and his team immediately left the ground and headed for the airport. There had been violence throughout the tour and Tests at Lahore and Dhaka had also been disrupted to a lesser extent, but after Mushtaq Mohammad had bowled to Alan Knott the mob burst onto the ground at Karachi. Knott was left unbeaten on 96, four short of what would have been his first Test century. "Politics meant more than cricket during the six weeks spent in Pakistan," said Wisden. "The members of the team needed to be diplomats rather than cricketers, aware that they had to play up to a rabble of spectators to avoid greater excesses."

Trouble on a length: the Headingley pitch after it was vandalised in 1975 © Getty Images

England v Australia, Headingley, 1975
At the end of the fourth day the match was finely balanced with Australia 220 for 3, chasing an unlikely 484 for victory. But on the final morning it was found that during the night the pitch had been sabotaged by vandals protesting at the imprisonment of one George Davis for armed robbery. Oil was poured on the Rugby Ground end of the pitch, while the surface was also dug up with knives. There had been just one night guard on duty and the authorities soon realised Test grounds needed greater security. It left the umpires, David Constant and Arthur Fagg, no option but to call the match off as a draw, although midway through the final day it started to rain so the game would probably have ended in stalemate anyway.

England Women v India Women, Leeds, 1986
Cricketers from India always play with the pressure of a nation behind them, but the India women's team who were taking part in their first series in England during 1986 also had the threat of their funding being withdrawn if they lost. When England, needing 254 to win, were cruising with two hours remaining, at Collingham in Leeds, India took their tactics to the extreme in slowing the game down. They bowled just eight overs in the penultimate hour, after complaining of dazzling windows on parked cars, and took an exaggerated amount of time to readjust their field with a right- and left-hander batting together most of the time. England finished 25 runs short and Gill McConway, the ECB's executive director of women's cricket, said: "We were robbed."

England v South Africa, Sydney, 1992
Messrs Duckworth and Lewis were unknown during the 1992 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, and the system used to calculate rain-reduced targets wasn't without its problems. By and large it hadn't had a huge impact on the tournament - until, that was, the semi-final in Sydney. South Africa were chasing 252 in 43 overs and needed 22 off 13 balls. Twelve minutes of heavy rain reduced it to 22 off 7, then, farcically, 21 off 1. An almost embarrassed Chris Lewis trotted in to bowl the final ball and England moved into the final. "Justice was probably done," said Wisden. "[Kepler] Wessels chose to field, knowing the rules and the forecast, and his bowlers were fined for going slow and depriving England of five overs' acceleration. But it was not seen to be done, and fine performances on both sides were overshadowed by indignation."

India v Sri Lanka, Kolkata, 1996
The nature of India's capitulation as they chased 252 for a place in the World Cup final proved too much for the crowd at Kolkata. A collapse of 7 for 22 led to a riot by some sections, forcing match referee Clive Lloyd to take the players off the field and 15 minutes later declare Sri Lanka the winners by forfeiture. The Indian board wanted the result recorded on run-rate, which never happened. "The authorities - and many home fans - were intensely embarrassed by the trouble," reported Wisden. "Even as the match was abandoned, one Indian raised a banner reading 'Congratulation [sic] Sri Lanka - we are sorry'. Some took out apologetic advertisements in the Sri Lankan press. But, like the Pakistani fans four days before, others raged against their unsuccessful players and a guard was put on captain Azharuddin's house."

Is that the Grand Canyon? No, it's the Sabina Park pitch in 1998 © Getty Images

West Indies v England, Jamaica 1998
Even in the days leading up to the first Test of the series there were concerns from both camps about the state of the Sabina Park wicket. Huge cracks criss-crossed the surface and the edges were crumbling. When Mike Atherton won the toss, he batted on the assumption the pitch would break up even more over a few days; the match lasted just a few overs. After 56 minutes of play and 61 balls the England batsmen had been struck numerous times, while other balls scooted through at ankle height. "[Alec] Stewart was left on what was widely agreed to be the most heroic nine not out in history," reported Wisden. "There was a bit of war out there and you always fear for a batsman's safety,'' said England physio Wayne Morton. "You don't often see too many apologies from West Indian fast bowlers, but they seemed pretty embarrassed by it." Atherton and Brian Lara, the match referee and the umpires got together on the outfield and the decision was taken to abandon the Test on safety grounds. "The pitch was dangerous and the safety of the players was paramount. Conditions were unfit and during the game umpire Venkat was in constant touch on a walkie-talkie with the match referee," said Atherton. "Alec called me on and we had a chat with Brian Lara. Both umpires asked what we thought the conditions were like. It was when Alec called me on to the field that I had to consider the safety of the players. Everyone was in agreement."

England v Pakistan, Headingley, 2001
The Natwest Series of 2001 was marred throughout by unruly crowds; the worst scenes came at Headingley. Pakistan were cruising towards their target of 157 with ten overs of the match remaining when the pitch invasion took place. A ground steward was left with broken ribs after he tried to protect the stumps and Alec Stewart was forced to concede the match, "an unprecedented occurrence at this level", said Wisden. It all overshadowed a brilliant display of rapid swing bowler from Waqar Younis, who took 7 for 36.

England v Pakistan, The Oval, 2006
Shortly before tea on the fourth day, Darrell Hair looked at the ball that Pakistan were bowling with and signalled a five-run penalty to the scorers after believing it had been tampered with. In one moment the focus moved from cricket to controversy. Play continued until tea, then Inzamam-ul-Haq led a Pakistan sit-in behind a closed dressing-room door. After the interval the two umpires - Hair and Billy Doctrove - along with two England batsmen, Ian Bell and Paul Collingwood, stood in the middle on their own. They waited a few moments, then Hair removed the bails, ruling that Pakistan had forfeited the game by refusing to play. Inzamam said his team were ready to resume, but despite frantic negotiations between the boards and officials, Hair stood by his decision. The fallout lasted well beyond the match, with Hair offering to resign for US$500,000, then taking the ICC to an employment tribunal. He subsequently withdrew his claim, and in May 2008 returned to Test match umpiring.

Australia v Sri Lanka, Barbados, 2007
If the crowd at Edgbaston thought it was dark when the players went off, it was nothing compared to the scenes at Bridgetown when the players actually stayed on in the biggest match of the year. Steve Bucknor and Aleem Dar mistakenly told Ricky Ponting that the overs - already reduced to 38 by rain - had to be completed despite the minimum requirement of 20 having already been passed. Not wanting to return the next day, Ponting used two spinners in the ever increasing gloom. The viewers on TV were the only ones able to properly see what was happening because the pictures were brightened. By the time the post-match ceremony and closing acts were performed one could not see anything. The "playing control team" (ICC speak for the umpires) were all dropped for the following ICC World Twenty20 in South Africa.

Andrew McGlashan is a staff writer at Cricinfo