Broad aggrieved over lightning call
Stuart Broad did his best to hide his anger after a decision by the umpires on when to take the players off in England's World T20 opener led to defeat against New Zealand via the Duckworth-Lewis method.
With Broad bowling to Brendon McCullum and lightning visible in the sky, the umpires waited until the arrival of rain before calling a halt, crucially allowing proceedings to reach the five-over mark required to constitute a game.
Broad said England could "feel aggrieved" to have lost and suggested the players should have come off the field at the first sign of lightning in the interests of safety. He criticised the decision-making by Aleem Dar and Paul Reiffel, the on-field umpires, but stopped short of saying England would lodge an official complaint.
"To be as polite as I possibly can be I think it was distinctly average decision-making keeping us on after the first lightning strike at the start of the fifth over, keeping us on throughout that," Broad said. "That over has obviously given us a loss.
"I asked the umpires for a bit of clarity on the decision-making at the end of the game and they said they didn't see the lightning and didn't think it was a threat. You can guarantee from our team we felt like it was a threat and with a batsman pulling away from a delivery after 4.2 overs I think the batsman saw it as well.
"At the end of the day it's a game of cricket so I wouldn't be putting the crowd and players' safety under threat."
McCullum pulled away as a flash of lightning lit up the sky with Broad running in to deliver the fifth ball of the fifth over. At that point, New Zealand were level on D/L, although two more deliveries needed to be bowled before it could come into effect. Broad's fifth ball was a dot but McCullum thumped the next for six. After 5.2 overs, with rain falling, Dar and Reiffel decided to call a halt.
Broad and McCullum were to be seen in apparently amicable discussion as the teams went off at the start of a heavy downpour. Broad said there were "four or five" lightning strikes while the players were out in the middle and that he and McCullum, the New Zealand captain, had discussed leading the players off themselves. "It's not sour grapes because I think both sides were uncomfortable being out there in such heavy lightning being around," he said.
The initial rainfall lasted around 20 minutes before appearing to blow over. But, with the umpires due to make an inspection, further rain arrived, causing the match to be abandoned at around 11pm local time.
"I think you should have an umpire in here for some clarity to be honest," Broad said. "There are some questions that need asking to the ICC. I mean it's all very well wanting to finish a game so you can tick a box, etc, but players' health and safety and actually crowd safety is very important and that to me felt like very threatening lightning."
New Zealand bowler Kyle Mills said that the right decision had been made to take the players off, although he felt the timing was a matter for debate. He said that McCullum, who hit 16 off six balls, had "summed up the situation pretty well" to make sure his team were ahead of the D/L par score.
"If Stuart was on the other end of it, he would be more than happy with the decision," Mills said. "In cricket you win some and you lose some, the umpires are trying to make the decisions to the best of their ability. They want to get a full game of cricket on, a judgement call as they see it, and it just so happened that we got another over in the game."
Two of England's previous World T20 campaigns have featured similar defeats. In the Caribbean four years ago, England lost to West Indies after rain reduced their target to 60 in fives overs and then their second match in the first group stage, against Ireland, was washed out. They squeezed through on net run rate before embarking on a five-match unbeaten run to the title. In 2009, when England hosted the tournament, they were effectively knocked out after losing another rain-affected game against West Indies at The Oval.
New Zealand had been set a target of 173 to win after England made the highest total on the ground in the tournament so far, despite no one scoring more than Moeen Ali's 36. Defeat leaves England possibly needing to win all three of their remaining games to reach the semi-finals. They are not in action again until Thursday, when they will take on Sri Lanka, who beat South Africa in the afternoon game on Saturday.
"Nothing we can do about it now, we just have to win our next three games, simple as that," Broad said. "The way we played tonight there's every possibility we can do that. We're still lacking that one player to go on and get a big 60 or 70 but we've got some guys firing and that's a good thing.
"The World Cup we won in 2010 we lost on D/L in the first game, scraped through against Ireland then we won our next five games to win the competition. We have to have the belief that can happen again."
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here