June 11, 2012

Sorry for the inconvenience

Some of the stranger reasons for stoppages of play, including animal invaders, bomb threats and gravy

A man drove onto the pitch to halt the Ranji Trophy game at Palam grounds © Kamesh Srinivasan/The Hindu

This story was updated on Nov. 15, 2017 with multiple recent cases of strange stoppages to play

Burnt toast

With 18 runs for victory, New South Wales had to stop batting for around 30 minutes as a fire alarm sounded at Allan Border Field in Brisbane. Later, it emerged that one of their own players was the cause for their third game of the Shieffield Shield 2017-18 season against Queensland taking a tiny bit longer than they would have imagined. Nathan Lyon, Australia's most prolific offspinner, had burnt a piece of toast which had prompted fire trucks to arrive at the ground. Eventually, the authorities gave the go-ahead and the win was sealed.

Car on the pitch

Delhi's Ranji game against Uttar Pradesh earlier this month was stopped by a man driving his car onto the pitch, completely ignoring attempts from players and umpires asking him to stop. Despite taking multiple swerves to drive over the pitch, the man claimed that he did not see any security and was merely lost. Thankfully, no harm was done, as the match referee deemed the pitch "playable" after examining potential damage. Incidentally, it was the second major security breach at an Indian cricket ground in a space of two weeks, after a sting operation showing undercover reporters walking on the pitch caused controversy ahead of the second ODI between India and New Zealand.

Delayed food delivery

Lunch was delayed by ten minutes at Bloemfontein on the first day of the second Test between Bangladesh and South Africa earlier this year, due to delay in the delivery of Halal food meant for the visiting team. The teams had separate caterers, and it was later found that the ones serving Bangladesh's food were given a wrongly printed menu, which delayed delivery by an hour and a half. It barely made a difference, as Bangladesh's bowlers continued to be tonked by South Africa's top order, conceding 256 runs in the first two sessions, picking up a solitary wicket.

A hedgehog briefly stopped play during Derbyshire's County Championship match at Gloucester in July 1957. The players unsuccessfully tried to shoo the prickly invader off the pitch, before Derbyshire's wicketkeeper George Dawkes carefully picked it up and took it off the field. Dawkes was protected by his big gloves on this occasion, but he wasn't so lucky when, one evening after play at around this time, a lady belaboured him with her umbrella. She had mistaken Dawkes for Derbyshire's fast bowler Les Jackson (the two players looked rather alike) and wanted to tell him off for hitting one of her side's batsmen.

An Under-17 representative match in Blacktown, near Sydney, in 2009 was held up for 20 minutes when a deadly red-bellied black snake appeared - "harassing players in the outfield before inspecting the pitch," according to the local Blacktown Advocate. A few years earlier, also in Australia, a batsman spotted a similarly venomous intruder, and stepped out of his crease to hit it with his bat just as the next ball was bowled. He connected with the snake, and turned round to see if he'd been stumped - only to discover that the wicketkeeper had run away.

Burnt gravy
Lancashire's push for victory over Kent at Old Trafford in June 2007 was held up when the pavilion had to be evacuated after fire alarms went off. Two fire engines raced to the scene, and discovered that smouldering gravy in the kitchens had set the sensors off. Lancashire regrouped and won by eight wickets.

Players lay down on the ground when a German flying bomb was expected to land at Lord's © PA Photos

A wartime match at Lord's, between the Army and the Royal Air Force in July 1944, was stopped when a German doodlebug seemed likely to land on the ground. The players lay on the turf, and spectators took evasive action (they were advised to go under the stands in case of an emergency like this). But the device carried on before landing in Regent's Park. "The first flying-bomb to menace Lord's during the progress of a match," reported an outraged Wisden. One of the batsmen, the Middlesex and England opener Jack Robertson, dusted himself off and celebrated the narrow escape by hitting the next ball for six.

Kent's Championship match against Hampshire at Canterbury in August 1957 was briefly interrupted when a mouse ran on to the field. The rodent's owner followed it on to the ground and scooped it up in his hat. A mouse also stopped play during the 1962 Lord's Test against Pakistan, risking the ire of cricket's most famous cat, Peter (the only animal to receive an obituary in Wisden).

The organisers of the special Test between India and England in Bombay (now Mumbai) in February 1980, staged to celebrate the golden jubilee of the formation of the Indian cricket board, had to bring forward the scheduled rest day because there was a total eclipse of the sun on what should have been the second day. Ian Botham took 6 for 58 on the first day, and refreshed by his day off he then scored a century and took seven more wickets as England won by ten wickets.

Cricket's a summer game, right? And June in England is summer time (rumour has it). But on June 2, 1975, no play was possible in Derbyshire's Championship match against Lancashire in Buxton after a blizzard left an inch of snow on the ground. Almost inevitably, one of the umpires was Dickie Bird, who received an unexpected surprise when play resumed on the third day on what was now a spiteful pitch: Ashley Harvey-Walker asked Dickie to look after his false teeth while he batted (briefly: Derbyshire were skittled twice for 42 and 87). And Bird was also umpiring in 1994 when a snow flurry halted the game at Fenner's between Cambridge University and Nottinghamshire in April.

Surrey's first-team game against Leeds/Bradford University early in 2007 was held up when a man in a cigarette costume - hired to promote a ban on smoking at The Oval - wandered behind the bowler's arm. The PA announcer was pressed into action to ask "Would the cigarette please sit down."

Snow stopped play at Buxton on June 2, 1975 © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

A match between Worcestershire and Derbyshire in 1889 (not a first-class one) was briefly stopped when a pig ran across the ground. More recently, the 1982-83 Ashes Test in Sydney was enlivened when someone let a pig loose on the outfield: it had "Botham" painted on one side and "Eddie" on the other, a reference to the supposed porkiness of the England players "Beefy" Botham and Eddie Hemmings.

Fried calamari
There was an unscheduled hold-up during a Currie Cup match in Paarl in 1995 when the Test batsman Daryll Cullinan hit the future international fast bowler Roger Telemachus for six. The ball landed in a spectator's barbecue, among a generous portion of frying squid, and it was ten minutes before the ball was cool enough for the umpires to remove the grease. "Even then," reported Wisden, "Telemachus was unable to grip the ball and it had to be replaced."

No balls, no bails
The start of play on the third day of the Test between India and England at Delhi in 1981-82 was delayed after the umpires mislaid the key to the cupboard in which the balls were kept. Something similar happened in the Middlesex-Glamorgan Championship match at Lord's in 2009: the third day's play started late after the bails went missing. Wisden took up the tale: "To compound matters, the groundsmen were on their mid-morning break, and it was some time before umpire Garratt found them and the missing woodwork."

Steven Lynch is the editor of the Wisden Guide to International Cricket 2012.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Usman Arshad Mani on March 10, 2017, 15:08 GMT

    I remember the Calcutta Test in 1999 between India and Pakistan when Sachin's run out prompted the crowd to go bizzerk and violent. The administration had to throw out each and every spectator to restart the game. It's the same game when Shoaib Akhter famously bowled Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar in 2 consecutive deliveries in India's first inning handing Sachin his first Golden Duck in test career.

  • Dummy4 on June 25, 2012, 9:25 GMT

    The start of the 5th Test at Kingsmead, Durban between South Africa and England in 1930-31 was delayed by 20 minutes because the correct size of bails was unavailable. Apparently the umpires made two sets - did they whittle them down themselves or did they find someone who was handy with a lathe?

  • Dummy4 on June 15, 2012, 9:26 GMT

    Penguins stopped play in a match in Antarctica! - read the account in the late Harry's Thompson's PENGUINS STOPPED PLAY (John Murray 2006)

  • Nicholas on June 13, 2012, 13:52 GMT

    I remember playing in a Sunday friendly several years ago, in incredibly hot [for England] conditions. Our opening bat hadn't eaten for several days, owing to a stomach upset. After a few overs, he swooned and collapsed in the heat. As he was escorted to the pavilion, the young scorer wrote: 'Retired Hungry'!

  • Dummy4 on June 12, 2012, 14:49 GMT

    What about the Zim v WI Test in Harare 2003? While the pitch was being rolled for one of the days, a stray ball from fielding drills ended up under the heavy roller and was pressed halfway into the pitch. The adjoining golf club provided the tool used to cut holes on the green, and after some experimentation, a plug of turf was taken from behind one of the creases and transplanted to the damaged area mid-pitch. Zim ran out of time with the Windies 9 down on the final day.

  • Dummy4 on June 12, 2012, 14:23 GMT

    I was at the Lords game in 96 mentioned bellow (Saturday of E vs I, 2nd test. Ganguly & Dravid were making big runs on debut at the time). The stands did not empty, but it was clear that a substantial portion of the crowd were listening to the game as every time a penalty went in the crowd cheered loudly.

    That one is in Wisden 97 and is listed in the "Index of Unusual Occurances" as "Football at Wembley stops play in Cricket at Lords"

  • touqeer on June 12, 2012, 12:23 GMT

    I am not sure if this one falls in the category of the column, there was an official oneday match between pak and india in sialkot Pakistan. all of sudden match stopped without any apparent reason. we had no idea what had happened, players came back to pitch for few seconds gone again. later that day we found Indira Gandhi was murdered by her guards.

  • Dummy4 on June 11, 2012, 23:39 GMT

    I was reminded of the time, in the local league here in South Aus, when the batsmen ran ten. At this point the Umpires decided that:

    ''Enough is enough and would the kind batsman please lend the mid-off fielder his bat so that the snake that is very angry and wrapped around the ball, could have his head hit for six.'' The king-brown snake had been minding his own business, basking in the sun at deepish, wide mid-off when the ball lobbed onto him and stopped. Funnily none of the fielders were willing to approach the ball without a large stick (cricket bat) to protect themselves.

    After this was done the ball was retrieved and play continued. (I can't remember if the ten runs were allowed or if that ball was re-bowled or what.)

  • David on June 11, 2012, 20:39 GMT

    I'll never forget the duststorm in Adelaide 10-15 years ago. I don't think Richie will either.

    The infamous LBW stopped play, when Gavaskar decided that if he was out, so was his partner. Thank goodness for the team manager stopping Chauhan at the gate and sending him back.

    I'm surprised no streakers got a mention, especially the one that Greg Chappell batted away.

    Then there's the Terry Alderman shoulder injury incident.

    Seagulls have stopped play more than once. in Australia I remember Dennis Lillee doing a rescue of an injured bird. Pigeons at the MCG, feeding on the seeds scattered over the centre wicket area (now there's a plus for drop in pitches!)

    Didn't Tony Greig get a key stuck in a pitch crack once? Ok it was before play...

  • Dummy4 on June 11, 2012, 16:16 GMT

    Sand storm at Sharjah in 1998 missing...

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