Old Trafford Test may be under threat

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The Independent Online
With the first day's play of the opening Test match against Pakistan washed out at Lord's yesterday, rain is threatening to wreak havoc with the two-match series.

With the first day's play of the opening Test between England and Pakistan washed out at Lord's yesterday, rain is threatening to wreak havoc with the two-match series. There is already speculation that the second Test, which is due to start in less than a fortnight, will have to be moved from Old Trafford because of waterlogging.

While the forecast is for better conditions at Lord's from today, the outlook is less encouraging in the North-West. A ball has yet to be bowled on the Old Trafford square this season after a seventh successive day was lost to the weather yesterday. The second day between Lancashire and Glamorgan was washed out, following Wednesday's first day, the National League match against Hampshire and the four days of the opening Championship fixture against Surrey.

The difficulty arises from the current level of the water table at Old Trafford. Any heavy shower, like those of the last 72 hours, brings water to the surface and turns part of the outfield into a morass. The drainage system is being gradually replaced, but as the groundsman, Peter Marron, points out: "Hard as we work to get the water away what we desperately need is a prolonged dry spell to give the ground a chance to recover."

Lancashire have not yet made any contingency plans for the Test which starts on 31 May in the hope that another burst of fine weather will return. The poor conditions have already forced Lancashire to transfer their Benson and Hedges Cup games to the Liverpool ground at Aigburth, where results have been obtained this season despite interruptions for rain.

The Lancashire chief executive, Jim Cumbes, said: "The umpires were hoping to start about tea-time on Wednesday before we had another heavy rainfall followed by sporadic rain all night."

In the past Lancashire, like Yorkshire, often sought a southern tour in May to take advantage of the earlier spring in the south and east, but modern two-division fixture planning, rigidly scheduled around a vast international programme, allows no such favours. There was always the possibility of one of the northern counties losing their First Division status simply because they were unable to complete enough of their home games.

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