World T20 2014 March 23, 2014

'You don't mess with lightning' - Lumb

For the third time at a World T20, England have found their chances hampered by the weather and a Duckworth-Lewis defeat.

In 2009, at The Oval, it ended their tournament but when England lost a rain-affected game against West Indies the following year and then saw their second group game washed out, they quickly towelled themselves down and went on to win the trophy.

Michael Lumb was a part of that side - in fact, he made his T20 debut in the opening match in Guyana - and he has particular knowledge of the other elemental force that interrupted England's game against New Zealand on Saturday. Lightning flashes lit up the ground before the arrival of rain but the umpires decided to keep the players on the field until the required five overs had been bowled for a positive result.

Stuart Broad, England's captain, was critical of that decision, claiming the safety of players and spectators had been put at risk. He will face disciplinary action from the ICC for his comments but Lumb reiterated England's view that they had been put in a potentially dangerous situation.

"I grew up in Jo'burg, so I'm a bit scared of lightning, so I wasn't too happy about it," Lumb said. "I've played in games, especially at school and stuff, where we've gone off for lightning. So it is something you grow up knowing you don't really mess around with. So you know, it's one of those things. We can't control it, but it is pretty scary.

"When I was at school, the girls school went on a camp, and five of them died. A tree got hit and they were camping under the tree. They got hit. At my primary school the tennis courts got hit, everyone on the field got knocked out, their shoes got burnt, the top of their heads got burned. At the local Bryanston Country Club, a father and son walking back from the driving range, it wasn't even raining, they got hit. They died. It's a regular thing over there. You just don't play with it. It's dangerous, it takes lives."

Last year, in Johannesburg, two schoolboy cricketers were hospitalised after being struck by lightning during a practice session and it can also be a problem in parts of the subcontinent - in November, lightning led to a break in play during a ODI between Sri Lanka and New Zealand on the grounds of safety. According to the ICC it is the umpire's sole jurisdiction to decide when play is suspended due to adverse conditions but Lumb cited the example of golf, where some courses have lightning warning systems installed.

"I don't know the rules and regs, but from a safety point of view, you should have been off the field," Lumb said. "It was a dangerous place to be. That's the long and the short of it. You wouldn't be out there on a golf course. It's the reason they have those sirens, because it's dangerous. If this was a golf course, we wouldn't have been on the course. The siren would have gone off and we would have been sat in the clubhouse.

"I was at deep square leg, I heard the rumble. I thought it was an aeroplane at first. Then the rumble got closer, and I thought 'oh, that's thunder'. Then there were a couple of flashes, and it got really close."

Although the weather swept in almost without warning - New Zealand had been told there was a 2% chance of rain during the interval - Brendon McCullum came to the middle in the fourth over and swiftly sized up the situation. He hit the last ball of the fifth over, bowled by Broad, for six to put New Zealand ahead on D/L. "When he came out he obviously had a clear intent to get ahead of Duckworth-Lewis," Lumb said.

England's sense of grievance was perhaps increased by the fact their total, the highest made in eight T20 internationals at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium, looked a defendable one. Moeen Ali's 36 was the top score and his second-wicket stand of 72 in 7.2 overs with Lumb the highlight of the innings; but instead of a chance to secure a confidence-building victory, they are behind the eight ball again. It is beginning to seem like they have been snookered for most of the winter.

"It happens when things aren't going your way, the rub of the green is against you," Lumb said. "But when things are going good you kind of get on a roll and away you go. If you look back to 2010 we lost the first one and almost lost to Ireland and went on and won it. So it's not a huge setback, it's only one game. We're doing the right things, and when the rub changes we'll be on the crest of the wave and we'll ride it all the way."

Another veteran of the 2010 campaign has been called up by England. Craig Kieswetter will fly to Bangladesh to replace Luke Wright. Lumb and Kieswetter provided the gunpowder at the top of the order as England won a first global limited-overs trophy but the latter was discarded after two frustrating years following the 2012 competition. But rather than another sign of regression, Lumb thinks England could yet replicate their surprise success in the Caribbean, D/L problems notwithstanding - a different kind of lightning striking twice.

"We're definitely on an upward curve. Twenty20's a funny one to gauge and to sense, but if you looked at a graph I think we are on the way up. I think we've got a lot of challenges with spin and wicket and conditions, but as a whole we are improving."

Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments