Anybody assuming that England were dashing for their default position of whingeing Poms should have heard Michael Lumb on Sunday. In outlining precisely why their opening World Twenty20 match against New Zealand should have been abandoned before it was, he remembered his childhood in South Africa.
“I was at school, the girls’ school went on a camp, and five of them died,” he said. “A tree got hit which they were camping under and they got hit. At my primary school the tennis courts got hit, everyone on the field got knocked out, their shoes got burnt, the top of their heads got burnt.
“At the local Bryanston Country Club a father and son walking back from the driving range, it wasn’t even raining, they got hit. They died. It’s a regular thing over there. You just – you don’t play with it. It’s dangerous.”
His graphic memories must have come flooding back when lightning struck during the fifth over of New Zealand’s reply to England in their opening World Twenty20 match on Saturday night at the Chowdhury Stadium. As it was not raining, the umpires decided to stay on the field so the over could be finished to constitute a match under the regulations. Stuart Broad, England’s captain, was fined 15 per cent of his match fee on Sunday night for describing the umpires’ call to stay on as “extremely average decision making”.
Had the match been called off when England wanted, both teams would have earned a point for a no result. The Kiwis were then behind the DL rate and their admirable captain, Brendon McCullum, sensed what was afoot.
Calmly but aggressively he struck Broad for two sixes and a four, also interrupting one ball when lightning flashed in front of the sightscreen. England felt hard done by, partly because they lost the match by nine runs under the rules perhaps, but mostly, they insisted, because of the obvious danger. Two balls into the sixth over it started raining and eventually the match was abandoned.
“I grew up in Jo’burg, so I’m a bit scared of lightning, and I wasn’t too happy about it,” said Lumb. “I’ve played in games where we’ve gone off, especially at school and stuff, we’ve gone off for the lightning. So it is something you grow up knowing you don’t really mess around with.
“It’s one of those things we can’t control but it is pretty scary. You wouldn’t play golf in it, would you? I was ready to go off. A couple of big flashes happened behind the stand, and I got a bit of a scare. It wasn’t easy out there.”
There were four or five flashes in the fifth over as New Zealand chased England’s 172 for 6, accompanied by rolls of thunder. Broad made his feelings clear immediately after the match and attracted censure under level one of the code of conduct dealing with public criticism of officials.
While England, given their recent form, could have done with any point coming their way no matter how achieved, they should be heartened by their improved form. None of the batsmen who got in stayed in for long enough, but to a man they remembered the importance of contributions down the order. No one made fifty, five made 17 or more.
The squad are idle until Thursday when they play their second group match against one of the tournament’s hotshots, Sri Lanka. They had a day off on Sunday apart from running a mile for Sport Relief. Although the players insisted it was not a competitive race round the stadium boundary, the assistant coach, Paul Collingwood, produced a finishing burst to pip the coach, Ashley Giles, with Ravi Bopara the leading player and the rest lagging behind somewhere near the BBC’s cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew.