MANCHESTER, England: Heavy rain and a huge puddle on the boundary controversially wiped out half a day’s play in the fourth test on Friday, frustrating spectators and damaging England’s attempts to build a substantial lead over India.
After resuming the day at Old Trafford on 113-3, England reached 237-6 at stumps to lead India’s first innings total of 152 by 85 runs.
Play stopped at 2.15 p.m. local time and day two was later abandoned without another ball bowled at 5.40 p.m. Umpires Marais Erasmus and Rod Tucker deemed the pitch unfit for play with a boggy outfield where the puddle had once been.
“Parts of the outfield are dangerous, and I don’t think the Indians would want to bowl and see the ball keep disappearing into that area,” England assistant coach Paul Farbrace told Sky Sports.
India had earlier fought back to take three wickets in the opening session. Nightwatchman Chris Jordan was the first wicket to fall, going for 13. He attacked a short ball from Bhuvneshwar Kumar but Varun Aaron took a brilliant catch low to his right at midwicket for India’s breakthrough.
Ian Bell made his 42nd test half century off 63 balls with a single into the offside from Pankaj Singh. He went on to 58 before edging Kumar’s delivery just outside off stump behind to India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
The delivery was a replica of the ball before which narrowly missed Bell’s bat on the way through. Moeen Ali (13) was then clean bowled when Aaron followed a short ball, which Moeen gloved for two, with an inswinging delivery that he could not react to in time.
“It is a good wicket to bowl on,” Kumar said. “If you are hitting the right area and swinging the ball, it is not easy for the batsman to score runs. It is one of the best wickets, compared to other test matches.”
Joe Root and Jos Buttler reached 48 and 22 not out respectively before rain halted play 25 minutes into the second session. Despite the weather improving, one area of the outfield was ruined by the downpour and play could not resume.
“This area of ground is constructed exactly the same as the rest of the field,” Mike Watkinson, director of cricket for Lancashire, which plays its domestic matches at Old Trafford, said. “There was new grass put down in April and our problem today is the grass isn’t as established as the rest of the outfield. There is still a bit of sand and top dressing showing through there, and that is where the water has settled. It’s a low point in the field.”
But with the rest of the pitch clearly ready to be played on after the rain had passed, plenty of fans left disappointed.
“This sort of thing hurts cricket. The evening is set, we could easily play on,” former England batsman and BBC commentator Geoffrey Boycott said. “Did the ground staff know about this? If so, they should have covered it or brought the boundary in. There’s a bigger picture. People play a fortune to watch. That’s bigger than a couple of cricketers slipping over.”
With many paying at least 45 pounds ($76) to watch the day’s action, Farbrace sympathised with supporters, who had to wait for nearly 3 ? hours before being told play would not restart.
“It is a shame today,” he told Sky Sports. “People have come and want to see a full day of cricket.”