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Somerset plead "Act of God" as Storm Bronagh sinks Surrey

Surrey's winning run ends at nine after Taunton covering fails and pitch damaged by tyre tracks

David Hopps
David Hopps
Taunton's chief executive Andrew Cornish examines the damage, Somerset v Surrey, Specsavers Championship Division One, September 21, 2018

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Somerset 146 (Morkel 3-19, McKerr 3-20) and 168 for 3 (Azhar Ali 61*, Hildreth 60) drew with Surrey 485 (Elgar 110, Stoneman 85, Burns 78, Roy 63)
Somerset pleaded an "Act of God" after Storm Bronagh proved too much for the Taunton covers and prevented the champions, Surrey, from recording their tenth Championship victory on the trot.
Gales as strong as Storm Force 9, combined with torrential rain, battered Taunton overnight and when the groundstaff arrived on Friday morning they discovered that water on the pitch had made conditions unplayable.
Photographs of the surface also suggested that the soft and wet pitch had also been damaged by tyre tracks - presumably as the covers were removed.
Alec Stewart, Surrey's director of cricket, expressed "massive frustration" and questioned how much worse it would have been if the match had been a Championship decider: that had seemed possible deep into the season until Somerset were unable to keep pace with Surrey's winning run.
"It was very windy and I am sure that Somerset haven't done this on purpose in any shape or form," he said. "But we were trying to win a game and make it ten on the bounce. Whatever happened, we were well ahead, so it's massive frustration.
"Imagine if this game had been a championship decider, which at one stage it looked like it might have been. It's worth the ECB looking ahead to prevent this sort of thing happening again.
"What are the repercussions? It is just an abandoned game. Is it the home side's responsibility to make sure the covering is secure? I don't know."
According to Somerset's chief executive, Andrew Cornish, the storm lifted up the covers at one end.
"The covers have lifted up slightly at one end," he said. "That caused the flat cover to move away. Water has got underneath and settled in an area which the umpires deemed has made the pitch unplayable.
"It's really frustrating and not how we wanted out home season to finish. It's frustrating for people who have come down from London and stayed overnight and those who have been down here for the duration. But this is an act of God and there was nothing we could do.
"We had additional sandbags on the covers last night, we had secondary ties on the covers last night and nobody can remember anything like this happening before. It was a prolonged storm last night."
Somerset were already in danger of incurring the ECB's wrath. They were warned by the ECB's disciplinary committee that they were "treading a very fine line" after a tie with Lancashire on a sharply-turning pitch in their last home fixture that was eventually marked as "below average.
They produced a much flatter surface for Surrey's visit and began the final day in danger of defeat, still trailing by 174 runs with only seven second-innings wickets standing.
There will be relief therefore in the south west to hear Cornish's assurance that the ECB had no plans for an investigation. "There was only one conclusion that the umpires could come to and they took that decision early to let as many people as possible know," he said.
"The match officials have been in touch with the ECB and they understand the situation. That's the matter closed."
As for Surrey, whose lead over Somerset has now stretched to 68 points, they must settle for a record of nine successive Championship wins, a feat not achieved since 1957, the first year that the England captain, Peter May, also took charge of the county side.

David Hopps is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps