Just 807 balls were delivered at the Ageas Bowl across the last five days, the ninth fewest bowled in a Test match in England. A combination of rain that washed out the entirety of day three and bad light had both sides off the field for longer than they were on it.
However, at times, the appetite to dry the outfield or stay on with the floodlights was absent, with day four the nadir when play was abandoned at 4:30pm but then playable by 6pm because of a burst of sunny weather.
The ECB and Sky were understood to be irritated by Sunday’s premature abandonment, especially in a summer where the outlay to get matches played has been so great as the England and Wales Cricket Board scrabble to stem their financial losses. They will register at around £106 million following confirmation that Australia will tour for three Twenty20s and three ODIs.
Root was batting in the indoor nets with batting coach Jonathan Trott at the time of the call was made, with England seven for one after five overs after Pakistan had been bowled out for 236 in their first innings. While he credits both sides for showing professionalism in the cricket that was played, which included 38.1 overs on Monday in which the hosts made it to 110 for four before fist bumps brought the match to a close at the start of the final hour, and does not believe the fault lies with standing umpires Michael Gough and Richard Kettleborough, he has urged a rethink from the ICC and their stringent rulings around when conditions are fit to play.
“I do think it’s hard to blame the umpires here,” said Root. “I think there’s something bigger that needs looking at higher up the chain.
“It frustrated a lot of people seeing the sun out later on (on Sunday). The hard thing was to understand how wet certain area were and I’m sure that was something discussed by the officials.
“You’ll have to ask them but as players, we don’t want to be sat watching, we want to be involved in exciting test cricket and make an impact on the world stage. We’re all for playing as long as its safe, we don’t want anyone injured because of bad light or wet surfaces.”
It is understood the ICC are open to reassessing their regulations, with early starts and use of a pink ball when the light fades up for debate.
Use of pink balls will require a good deal of politicking given the number of cricketers harbouring doubts over its suitability for top-level cricket among other reservations. But adjusting 11 am starts to 10:30 am is a very real possibility considering this already takes place in South Africa and Australia when time in the game has been lost the day before.
It has not been in the case in England because of the logistical issues around informing ticket-holders of the early start, which is usually only agreed upon at the end of the previous day’s play, and the extra burden on spectators to tweak their travel plans accordingly.
Given these games are not played with spectators and both sets of players and all the necessary broadcast staff are living on site at the Ageas Bowl, it could perhaps be in play by this Friday for the start of the third and final Test of the summer.
“I’m not sure exactly what channels that would have to go through,” said Root when asked if he would be receptive to that specific change so soon. Once that’s been put in place, I’m not sure how flexible things are to change because it might potentially favour one side more than the other. But moving forwards, it is something that could be potentially looked at beyond this series.”
The lack of play means there will be no need for either side to rest or rotate their quicks. However the England management entered this summer with a view to longer-term planning and would have had a prospective pace attack in mind for the third Test when they picked their quick bowlers for this match. Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Chris Woakes and Sam Curran all played while Jofra Archer, Mark Wood and Ollie Robinson were left out.
Carrying a 1-0 lead into the match means England must simply avoid defeat to confirm a first series win against Pakistan since 2010. Though they will go for the win, the weigh-up will be trying to perfect a combination that will travel to the Ashes in the winter of 2021 and picking the best set of players to beat the tourists in what will continue to be favourable home conditions.
“We will assess things tomorrow when everyone has had a day to recover from. I know there’s not a huge amount of cricket to recover from but we will have a real good idea of where everyone is physically, mentally going into the next game. Then we can make a decision on firstly, what we think might suit the surface best, and also make sure we feel like we are exploring all options, looking at different things moving forward. Try to get a balance between everything.
“We have managed to get cricket into most of the guys that have been involved in the squad throughout the summer so far. We are learning all the time about the squad of players in front of us both batters and bowlers. That is exciting. There is an element of looking forward of course but we have to make sure we look after what’s initially in front of us and that final Test match this summer.”
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