The Napier City Council is set to launch an inquiry* into the abandonment of the second Chappell-Hadlee ODI at McLean Park on Thursday, according to a stuff.co.nz report. Not a ball was bowled despite there being no rain for four hours after the scheduled start of play.
A series of inspections were made by Kumar Dharmasena and Chris Brown, the on-field umpires, even as the ground staff worked on the square and the outfield, but overcast skies made efforts to dry damp patches of the outfield futile. After multiple inspections, the outfield was deemed too dangerous.
This is the second successive ODI that has been washed out in Napier. Last year's ODI against Pakistan was also called off without a ball bowled.
Mike Hesson, the New Zealand coach, later said the ground "wasn't even close" to being fit for play. "We were given a start time which was a bit on the keen side because there was still casual water around the outfield. As we warmed up you'd throw balls and water would spray. As we did so, more water came to the surface so it actually got worse rather than better which was unexpected.
"The ground was unfit for play. It wasn't even close, to be fair. One of those aspects is player safety but you also need to be able to play a game of cricket, whether it be diving around or digging your knee into the ground, whether it be slipping over, or the ball landing and plugging."
The washout also casts shadows over the possibility of the ODI between New Zealand and South Africa scheduled for March 1. Napier City Council, which owns the ground, is expected to initiate an independent review.
NZC's chief operating officer Anthony Crummy also said the matter had to be looked into. "We did have some rain today but not enough to have the game being abandoned. We really need to have a look at what has happened,"Crummy said. "We understand that Nelson Park [next door] and other grounds are dry so something has gone wrong here and we need to understand what that is."
There was a brief possibility of a start when umpires confirmed a 4.45m start for a 37-over game, but two inspections later, the umpires deemed the ground far from ready. Aaron Finch, the Australia captain, labelled the ground condition "extraordinary".
"There was a good handful [of puddles] but they were in really key spots - backward point, cover, square leg - those spots that are hot spots in the field," Finch said. "Particularly in around the ring it was quite soggy and slippery, and the water was splashing up quite a bit.
"Along with management, we both [Finch and New Zealand captain Kane Williamson], once we started warming up, we realized that at 4 o'clock that they were a bit unsafe and then threw it over to the umpires from there. To be honest, it just didn't improve. I don't think the Super Sopper did a hell of a lot, to be honest. It's just one of those things - for a place that hasn't had rain for 11 weeks, it was quite extraordinary."
Hesson said it was too early to say if he would be comfortable having his team return to the venue for the South Africa ODI next month. "I'll be interested in the outcome of the review because we can't have a day like today," he said. "You have got two teams fizzing to play, a great crowd, and you haven't got a huge amount of rain, but the outfield was not even close to fit for play which is very frustrating for everybody.
"We were training on Nelson Park 100m away and the ground was bone-dry four hours ago, and the outfield here is not. There's clearly an issue here, I don't know what that is, but they need to have that review and we'll know more."
Napier mayor Bill Dalton, according to the New Zealand Herald, said an independent expert will look at the ground on Friday, and they would do "everything to make sure we have future games". "We have a world-class groundsman [Phil Stoyanoff] who has prepared this park for many years," Dalton said. "We have a rich history of games in Napier and will do everything to make sure we have future games.
"It was only one small area of the park that was deemed not dry enough. I know people who walked over that area and couldn't see what the issue was. But I'm not an umpire, or a cricketer and can't make those calls."
*11.05am GMT, February 2. The article has been corrected to reflect that the review will be initiated by the Napier City Council, and not NZC as previously stated