High farce at Headingley as new drainage system flops

One-dayer called off as £600,000 hi-tech refit fails to deal with overnight rain

In splendid afternoon sunshine yesterday an international cricket match was called off and English cricket looked utterly absurd. The first match of the NatWest Series between England and West Indies at Headingley was abandoned despite the installation of a new drainage scheme costing £600,000.

It was England's version of what happened in Antigua in February and just as embarrassing. The second Test match at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium was called off after 10 balls because a sandy outfield made it unfit for play. It took slightly longer to make that judgement yesterday. Hours after the rain ceased, water lay in puddles on the outfield: abandonment had seemed the only possible outcome.

In keeping with the usual stance in English cricket when things go wrong, Stewart Regan, the chief executive of Yorkshire county cricket club said: "This is not about blaming. This is about trying to understand. What you have seen unfortunately is a torrential downpour last night and another one this morning. The whole of cricket in a country affected by rain is a gamble."

Unfortunately, it is only 10 weeks before Headingley will stage the fourth Ashes Test and the prospect of a repeat is all too real. The new drainage system, paid for with a grant from the England and Wales Cricket Board, was simply not up to the job.

The technical reason given was that the rainwater sat in a thatch ledge just below (and eventually above) the turf and could not drain away. Eventually, it will undergo a process known as verti-draining which should clear it. Regan refused to forecast whether the problem would be eradicated by the time of the Test but it seems that everybody involved knew that the system would take time to bed down.

"The key point to remember here is that had we not done this drainage project this match wouldn't have taken place at all," he said. "There would have been a flood in front of the old pavilion and it would have been called off potentially hours ago." He seemed to have forgotten already that the match had not taken place at all.

The ECB, already criticised after two unsatisfactory Test matches against West Indies, now faces immense pressure because of the Ashes series. They have taken a huge gamble by awarding the first Test match to Sophia Gardens at Cardiff, where the pitch was reported as unfit by umpires after a one-day match last week.

Following yesterday's scenes the concerns should multiply. The ground will be a building site because a £21m development at the Kirkstall Lane End will be taking place. It had been hoped that it could be completed in time for an Ashes Test but the planning application was delayed. If the ground should be unfit for any reason potential catastrophe looms.

Despite the protestations to the contrary it was difficult to believe that international cricket would not have taken place on England's other international grounds. Two questions are pertinent: why was sufficient time not allowed for the new system to bed in, and why was more money not spent on a drainage system such as that at Lord's where play, as Regan conceded, would definitely have taken place?

"I have no regrets about the system because the money wasn't there," said Regan, although it seemed questionable to be spending so much on a pavilion and skimping on the business area. "The work started in September. Every possible contingency was put in place. We completed the outfield in time for the ECB to sign it off as fit for first-class cricket. We're investing for the future." Sadly, they were unable to stage an international match in the present.

* Pakistan fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar has been ruled out of the World Twenty20 due to a skin infection in his groin, a Pakistan Cricket Board spokesman said yesterday. "The medical panel of the board has examined Shoaib and he has been advised 10-12 days rest," the spokesman said.

Ashes watch

47 days to go...

Englishmen chuckling over the moderate quality of the Aussie attack, stifle your chortles: Brett Lee is ready to fire. "I'm bowling at 150 kmh [93 mph]," he says. "It's all aimed at the Ashes."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee