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."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law

footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
Life and Style

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Sudan, the last male northern white rhino
environmentThe death of a white northern rhino in Kenya has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth