Cricket was last night under pressure to radically change its inflexible bad weather regulations after the second England v Pakistan Test ended in the dampest of squibs with an inevitable draw.
The start of the final day of a match littered with embarrassing hold-ups hugely damaging to Test cricket was delayed until 3.20pm yesterday even though there had been no rain at the Ageas Bowl since 11.15am.
Sportsmail understands the ECB are ‘frustrated’ at the last five days after putting so much work and money into getting Test cricket on in this Covid summer.
Day 5 of England’s second Test with Pakistan was delayed again due to bad weather
The match ended in a draw, leaving the ECB and broadcasters Sky frustrated at the delays
They will now change their rules to start rain-affected Tests earlier than their set-in-stone time of 11am each day.
Sky Sports, meanwhile, say they are ‘as disappointed as anyone’ at the situation but they will surely demand answers as to why there was so little play. The broadcaster cannot be happy at such a small return for their huge investment and it would not be a surprise if they made an official complaint to the ICC and the ECB.
England captain Joe Root agreed with the idea of starting earlier but defended the actions of the umpires. ‘We could start half an hour earlier if we lose time,’ he said after yesterday’s play.
‘We have had a week of strange circumstances and it’s not often you see bad light playing such a big part in a five-day game. The ground staff did all they could and I do think it’s harsh to blame the umpires here. It needs to be looked at higher up the chain.
Joe Root admits he would like to see rain-affected cricket games starting earlier than 11am
‘The hard thing was to understand how wet certain areas were and how long it would take to get rid of them. As players, we don’t want to sit on the sidelines. We want to play exciting Test cricket. So as long as it’s safe we want to get out there.
‘But batting can be hard in bad light and it can be dangerous for the umpires if someone crunches one at them so there’s a lot to be looked at.’
Meanwhile, the ICC’s cricket committee, chaired by former India leg-spinner Anil Kumble, will lead the calls for change by looking to amend regulations concerning the lack of play under floodlights.
The ICC’s cricket committee will lead the calls for change in the lack of play under floodlights
ICC’s elite umpire panel are now also likely to be urged to re-think their interpretation of Law 2.71 on the safety of players which says ‘conditions should not be regarded as either dangerous or unreasonable merely because they are not ideal’.
Kumble’s committee could also advocate increased use of a pink ball in Tests, possibly as a substitute to the red one when the light is poor.
At least Hampshire, who have put so much effort into staging three Tests this summer, appear to be in the clear.
Sportsmail understands there are no official concerns over the Ageas Bowl drainage nor the ground staff who displayed a distinct lack of urgency to get the show on the road until the final morning when the penny finally dropped.
Sportsmail understands there are no official concerns over the Ageas Bowl drainage
England went through the motions in what little play was left yesterday to end on 110 for four declared, in reply to Pakistan’s first innings 236 but the whole Test was dogged by the issue of rain and bad light.
Yesterday’s delay was the final straw in a Test destined for controversy from the moment the English umpires Richard Kettleborough and Michael Gough took a conservative bad light reading on the first day. What followed was a litany of cricketing own goals which may yet see those officials sanctioned by their bosses at the ICC.
The first signs of intransigence came when the players trooped off for lunch after just an hour of the second day even though half the first day had been lost to the elements.
The second Test with Pakistan consisted of several bad light delays in Southampton
Then that bad light reading came back to haunt the umpires when their template was reached with Pakistan on 223 for nine even though Pakistan’s Mohammad Rizwan looked in complete control and the players on both sides appeared happy to carry on.
Following the third-day washout play was again held up after the delayed start to day four when the players called for sawdust to use on damp patches that had been left exposed by ground staff. That fourth day was abandoned before 4pm, with ground staff insisting it would take three hours to get the outfield fit for play, just as the sun began shining.
Then Sky, who bankroll the domestic game to the tune of hundreds of millions, had a request to interview the umpires to explain what had been going on turned down by the ICC, another PR disaster.
The ECB and Sky worked hard to get cricket back on this summer after the COVID-19 hiatus
It all risks driving away the record TV audiences of this behind-closed-doors Test summer. The inquest into what has been dubbed The Farce Show could be a tipping point for the Test game and the ICC.
Central to that inquest will be the role of umpires who have been uncompromising in their interpretation of the regulations.
For instance, playing conditions do allow for some flexibility in light meter readings when they say the first bad-light judgment ‘may’ be used as the benchmark for the rest of the game rather than ‘must’. That leeway was ignored by Kettleborough, Gough and off-field umpires Richard Illingworth and Martin Saggers.
Administrators have been stung by the backlash of the last five excruciating days — now the onus is on them to do something about it.