The fourth one-day international between England and Australia at the Riverside is under threat today after torrential rain in the north-east in the past two days. Although the weather forecast is slightly less gloomy, these things have tended to become relative in this watery summer.
Heaven and earth will be moved to get proceedings underway at Chester-le-Street – they will need to be – since they are being viewed as a curtain-raiser for the historic Ashes Test on the ground next year. But it is difficult to envisage a full 50-over a side match being played such has been the level of water.
Both teams were again forced to practise indoors yesterday and Australia look like a side that has had quite enough. Should the worst happen with the match being called off today, England will win the series because they are already 2-0 ahead. The third match at Edgbaston on Wednesday was abandoned without a ball bowled.
Self-contained though they are, Australia were hoping to use this series of five matches as initial preparation for next year's more pressing assignment. But it has simply not worked because of the weather and all they will have found out about Chester-le-Street so far is that it is a jolly long way from Lord's – even for players used to travelling vast distances between games at home.
England have to select a team without Graeme Swann, who is out of the series because of a sore elbow. They have admitted they do not wish to risk aggravating the injury before the Test series against South Africa which starts later this month.
England have therefore made it quite clear the one-dayers can take care of themselves. In Swann's absence and given the probable bowler-friendly conditions, they are likely to pack their side with batting. This would mean a recall for Samit Patel as the spinner and No 7. Patel can consider himself unlucky not to have played so far this summer after appearing in 14 of the 19 matches England played from his recall last July. He has begun to look the part of an international cricketer, though his weight and fitness remain a constant battle, and his batting could be outstanding.
England have been bold in their selection of James Tredwell, the Kent off-spinner, as cover for the absent Swann. It is difficult to see Tredwell being picked ahead of Patel's left-arm spin but his call-up is further evidence of loyalty on the part of these selectors.
When they identify a player they tend to stick with him and Tredwell has become the first-choice reserve to Swann. In some ways it is an invidious position because the chances of two off-spinners playing in the same team are slight, but as Tredwell pointed out it has happened before.
Swann and Tredwell both played in three World Cup matches together last year when Patel was out of the frame and in a Test match in Bangladesh early in 2010 when Tredwell performed rather better than his superior.
Aware that this call-up might be nominal, Tredwell said yesterday: "Sport is like that, unfortunately. I just have to try to do all I can in the domestic game to try to stay in and around the set-up. Who knows, I might get a game here and there. Hopefully if I put in performances ... you never know.
"You try to emulate Graeme Swann. But he is the man in possession. All the time he is doing really well, it is going to be tough to push him out. It is slightly difficult but you have to enjoy where you are. If I wasn't a cricketer, I might be a dustman or something. Every day is a bonus really."
And he paid his rival a handsome compliment, which was deserved too since the part Swann has played in the revival of finger spin can be too easily overlooked. "He is the man who has flipped it all around," insisted Tredwell.
"There was a time if you didn't bowl a doosra or something like that you might not even get looked at. He has come in and shown if you bowl properly, and do it really well, and spin the ball hard, you can still do really well at the top level. That certainly spurred me on and made me believe I could get to the top."
But for today England should rely on packing their side with batsmen and seamers, and if the weather relents can expect to complete a series victory.
A N Cook (capt), I R Bell, I J L Trott, R S Bopara, E J G Morgan, C Kieswetter (wk), SR Patel, T T Bresnan, S C J Broad, J M Anderson, S T Finn.
M J Clarke (capt), D A Warner, S R Watson, P J Forrest, G J Bailey, D J Hussey, M S Wade (wk), B Lee, M G Johnson, C J McKay, J Pattinson.
Weather Cloudy with rain for much of the day. Maximum Temperature 20 °C.
Pitch report Under constant cover all week and is bound to encourage seam throughout. Outfield will be extremely wet even if the rain ceases.
Odds England Evens, Australia 4-5
TV 10.30am-7pm, Sky Sports 1.
Highlights: Channel 5, 7pm-8pm.