Cricket: Yorkshire furious at title washout

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Lancs 277-8 dec

Yorks 419-9 dec and 176-5

Match abandoned as draw

In the long and passionate history of Roses cricket there can never have been a more acrimonious finish than that at Old Trafford yesterday.

It was not that any of the players from either side were embroiled in an unsavoury pushing incident on the pitch. They might have liked the opportunity.

With the match fascinatingly balanced going into the final day and Yorkshire's Championship aspirations similarly poised, play was abandoned without a ball being bowled.

The sun was peeping through a blue sky when the official announcement was made before the start. Overnight rain, no stranger to Manchester, had not so much seeped under the covers as poured its way through in Niagara proportions. The pitch at the Warwick Road end was a mud heap.

David Byas, the placid Yorkshire captain who is usually a man of few words, was infuriated. "I cannot think really of a word strong enough to describe my feelings but I am destroyed, gutted and devastated. This could cost us the Championship at the end of the season and, if there's just a few points in it, it will hurt.

"It's almost impossible to believe this could happen. It's not an out ground, it's a Test Match venue, one of the top places in the country. It wouldn't have happened at Headingley. It's unacceptable and I can't remember anything like it."

Yorkshire were in fourth place before yesterday - "the best position possible, coming from behind", Byas said - and have started to look as though they mean business. Over three days against Lancashire they had worked themselves into a challenging position at 318 ahead going into yesterday with five second-innings wickets left.

Byas was telephoned in his hotel room early yesterday morning by the Lancashire groundsman Peter Marron with the straightforward message "We've got trouble." He dashed to the ground and his heart and probably his side's title hopes sank in equal measure with the sight that confronted him. The highly regarded Marron explained that Old Trafford was built on a crown and any pitches either side of the centre were in danger from water running down.

"We took the same precautions as I have done for 14 years by banking one side with boards which we put on the flat plastic covers propped up against the covers over the pitch," he said. This is the way we've always done it and its always worked. But it rained non-stop for six hours. I could have kept the water away by staying up all night sweeping it off but I wasn't prepared to do that even for Yorkshire."

The narrow planks in which Marron had put his trust and over which the water had flowed spoke volumes for a top professional sport supposed to be entering a slick new era.

He honestly felt he and his team had done everything possible and politely rebuffed angry supporters from both sides who took issue with him. Marron accepted that it might be in order to ask his committee for better covers. For Byas it was too late. He and team were said to be distraught and could only reflect on an opportunity denied, collecting 10 points from the match instead of a possible 23. Still, the day was not entirely wasted. Byas, an East Yorkshire farmer, was asked what he was going to do with the rest of his day and replied: "Go back to work." Farmers' grounds are always playable.