NZ in Eng 2022 – ‘Cricket does shoot itself in the foot’


File it under Things That Make Cricket Look Daft. The first day of New Zealand’s tour match in Hove was abandoned shortly after a 2pm inspection over concerns about player safety, even as the ground was bathed in warm sunshine – leaving Sussex’s chief executive to suggest the game had “shot itself in the foot” once again.

Heavy rainfall during the morning had rendered parts of the outfield unplayable, in the view of the umpires, Graeme Lloyd and Paul Baldwin, who took an early decision to call proceedings off. That left Sussex with a sense of bemusement, best encapsulated by Rob Andrew engaging in some animated discussions with the groundstaff and match officials after the announcement had been made.

“I’m obviously very disappointed,” Andrew said. “It’s ten to three, and it’s not playable at the moment, but it’s been stopped raining for quite a while, doesn’t look like there’s a cloud in the sky – and we just felt it should have been given a bit more time to give it the opportunity to get ready for play. But the umpires are responsible for what happens on the field, and the safety of players, and in their view that’s why they’ve made the decision to call it off now.

“When it’s been stopped raining for a while, it’s clear that it’s going to be fine for the rest of the afternoon – give the groundstaff the chance to get this bit [of the outfield] dry, which is where the problem is, and then come back in an hour’s time and then make a decision.

“I completely understand the umpires’ responsibility around player safety but we also have to understand, I think, cricket does shoot itself in the foot. That seems to happen quite a lot, and it doesn’t make any sense to me. Look at it now – bright blue skies, not a cloud in the skies, and in another hour’s time we could be ready to go.”

Sussex had been hoping for a crowd in excess of 2000 on the first day, but will instead be making out a claim to their insurers for the money that has to be refunded.

“It’s just the game, the profile of the game,” Andrew said. “We had really good ticket sales for the first three days and we’ve got the world champions getting ready for a Test series in two weeks against England, our lads desperate to play, a lot of our youngsters, talented young players want to play this game.

“It’s not so much the money, we’ll sort that out, it’s just the frustration of the effort that’s gone in to put the game on from everybody at the club. We’ve had the New Zealanders here for three days, they’ve had three great days of practice – it’s just Sod’s Law, in colloquial terms, that the first time it rains for about two months is this morning. But that’s cricket for you and the English summer.”

New Zealand’s players did not arrive at the ground until just before the scheduled lunch interval, by which point the rain had begun to ease off. Their preparations had already hit a stumbling block after the news of three positive Covid cases in the camp on Friday morning – but the head coach, Gary Stead, was understanding of the decision to abandon play.

“There was a heck of a lot of rain this morning, and it’s really made the ground sodden,” he said. “I had a walk around just before and you still had squelching and water coming up. So there’s little point sitting around all day when the groundstaff just need time to get it right, and hopefully we’ll start on time tomorrow.

“We’ve still got three days here and another four-day game [vs Essex next week]. Ideally we want to play as much cricket as we can, but we can’t help the weather.”

New Zealand only had 13 players available for this game, which does not have first-class status; and with fast bowler Blair Tickner among those now isolating, that number has been cut to 12. They are set to face a near full-strength Sussex side, with only their overseas signings absent and England seamer Ollie Robinson looking to get overs under his belt in a bid to press his case for a Test recall.

Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick


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