Captains deny collusion in rain-affected game
Gareth Hopkins and James Marshall, captains of Auckland and Northern Districts respectively, have been accused of collusion to force a result in a rain-affected Plunket Shield fixture at Colin Maiden Park. Both teams forfeited an innings each to set up a result on the final day, after almost three out of four days were washed out, but the captains denied any collaboration and insisted the decisions were taken independently.
ND had reached 82 for no loss on the first day before rain interrupted play and prevented any action for the next two days. In a bid to speed up ND's declaration, Auckland used part-timers like Andrew de Boorder (nine overs for 85) and Reece Young (five overs for 65), to allow ND to reach 290 for 3. They scored 208 runs in 21 overs. Once the declaration was made, Auckland forfeited their first innings, and ND their second, to set the stage for a final-day chase. Auckland, however, fell short of their target by 56 runs after facing close to 73 overs.
New Zealand Cricket's rules do not allow collaboration between captains to ensure a result but the captains said they didn't speak to each other about the forfeits. An investigation into the matter confirmed there was no collusion.
ND lead the points table with 26 points from five games but Auckland are at the bottom, with zero points. Forfeiting an innings, Hopkins, the losing captain said, was a desperate attempt to open Auckland's account. "I was walking off the pitch thinking I can either play for the two points here, or forfeit our innings and hope James forfeits his, and play for six," he told the Dominion Post. "It might have left a sour taste in someone's mouth but it's solely because we were on zero points and we're trying to play catch-up."
ND captain Marshall said his decision was not unprecedented, and criticised those accusing him of collusion. "This is my 13th season and it's not like it's the first time it has happened in those 13 years," he said. "Other teams have done it. The teams that might have moaned are the teams that are maybe a little bit negative about the game of cricket."
Central Districts coach and former England allrounder Dermott Reeve was among those who led the criticism. "No captain in his right mind forfeits an innings 290 runs behind if he doesn't know that the other people aren't going to enforce the follow-on and play ball," he said. "It's disgraceful. This is not playing within the spirit of the game. It could just become farcical if there's nothing done."
Terming the NZC's investigation into the incident as "rubbish", Reeve added: "Auckland and ND should have come clean and said Auckland were aware that we [Northern] weren't going to enforce the follow-on."
Wellington coach Anthony Stuart echoed Reeve's statements. "Our jobs are on the line and you get a ridiculous game like this," he said. "I find it incredibly frustrating. I find it hard to believe the players sat around for 2 1/2 days and didn't discuss manufacturing a result."
However, NZC chief executive Justin Vaughan said the investigations yielded no evidence of collaboration. "It was obviously unusual circumstances in terms of how the game achieved a result," Vaughan said. "We did a thorough investigation and you've got to back the evidence that you receive. Certainly there was no evidence of collusion.
"What can you do? Accuse them of being liars? "You've got to take them on their word. So as much as you may suspect something, unless you've got the evidence, I don't think that you can act on anything."