Rain, rain go away…

21 06 2011

Drought conditions have been mentioned a lot this summer. It absolutely amazes me that this should ever be the case, given the amount of rain that falls upon this sceptred isle of ours. But all it takes is just a few dry weeks, in April and early May, and suddenly we’re in a red alert situation and on standby for the annual hosepipe ban!

Wherever I have been, most of May and all of June, to date, has been a tale of leaden skies and blustery winds, interspersed with the occasional sunny spell and frequent copious downpours – more typically March than ‘flaming June’, but apparently we are still officially in a drought situation!

Try telling that to the England and Sri Lanka cricketers after the damp squib of a three match Test series finally fizzled out at Southampton’s Rose Bowl yesterday afternoon.

I think I’m right in saying that only two out of 15 days play were unaffected by rain, and 369 overs were lost in total. I had bought tickets in advance for all three venues and felt somewhat short changed!

Cardiff (Day 1) – a first opportunity to welcome home the Ashes heroes; play started at 3.30pm, 48 overs were eventually bowled with Sri Lanka closing on 133-2.

Lord’s (Day 3) – a day out at the home of cricket (or more accurately half a day!); the first two days had actually been bathed in sunshine but my visit was cut short when the heavens opened shortly after lunch. 39.2 overs had been bowled with Sri Lanka adding 141 runs to their overnight score, of 231 -1, for the loss of two more wickets – finishing on 372-3.

Southampton (Day 1) – the first ever day of Test cricket at the Rose Bowl (the 105th venue to stage a Test match and the 10th in England); amazingly, given the early morning downpour, play commenced at 12.15 in glorious sunshine, but it was never going to last. As the rain clouds rolled in and out just three short passages of play were possible, yielding a meagre 38 overs, in which Sri Lanka subsided to 81-4.

So in total my three rain interrupted days of Test cricket have amounted to 125.2 overs (a single full day’s play should be 90 overs), in which Sri Lanka have ground out 355 runs for the loss of 8 wickets.

Stephen Brenkley, the Independent cricket correspondent, writing at the end of the first day of the Rose Bowl Test, summed up the series thus:

“The cricket season feels as though it has never started. The train has pulled away from the platform several times but never has it gone more than a few yards before signal failure, or leaves on the line have interrupted progress.

There has been no sense of fluency, rhythm or that the journey is actually under way. So it was at the Rose Bowl yesterday for what should have been a celebratory day for English cricket when torrential rain delayed the start and kept interrupting.”   

I guess buying tickets for cricket matches is always going to be a bit of a lottery, due to the weather. Although reimbursements are available for loss of play – 100% of the ticket price if 10 overs or less are bowled during the day, and 50% if play is restricted to between 10 and 25 overs – in my experience it’s very rarely that the 25 over threshold is not met!

But what of the cricket that has been possible in between the showers? I guess the Sri Lankan’s are kicking themselves now for that incredible capitulation on the final afternoon in Cardiff (unbelievably, allowing themselves to be bowled out in a crazy 25 overs) otherwise they would have drawn a series in which they were largely outplayed.

Their bowling attack was always going to struggle in the absence of the mighty ‘Murali’ and ‘slinger Malinga’ and although they do have a strong batting line-up it was never easy for them once the ball started to swing and seam about, as it invariably does early in the English season.

The Sri-Lanka fielding was distinctly average and their body language at times, as they shivered in the outfield, suggested they would rather have been back in Kandy or Colombo – wouldn’t we all?

The stand out players for Sri Lanka were captain Tillakaratne Dilshan, who missed the final game but batted marvellously at Lord’s for his 193 – the highest score by a Sri Lankan at the ground, and Prasanna Jawardene, an extremely  tidy wicketkeeper batsman.   

Kumar Sangakkara, an elegant left hander of the highest quality, has never lived up to his reputation in English conditions but on the last day of the series, in what was most likely his final Test innings over here, he came up with the century that had previously eluded him, and at a time when his country most needed it.     

England will be disappointed that they didn’t make the most of winning situations at Lord’s or Southampton, partly due to the weather but probably more so due to their inability to bowl out Sri Lanka when the ball wasn’t moving around much.

The batsman did well, with the exception of captain Strauss who struggled against pretty innocuous looking left arm seam bowling, in much the same way that ‘KP’ often does against slow left arm spinners, but I’m sure he’ll play his way back into form.

Alistair Cook has continued, his rich vein of form, from where he left off in the Ashes series, and Ian Bell’s stroke play is an absolute delight to behold at the moment. By remaining not out in three out of his four of innings in the series he  finished with an unlikely average of 331! 

Chris Tremlett was the pick of the England bowlers, fluent, fast, accurate and aggressive. It was great to see him, a Southampton lad and former Hampshire player, delivering the opening ball of the inaugural Test at the Rose Bowl, and finishing up as the first name on brand new honours board for his first innings six wicket haul.

With the selectors seemingly fixed on playing  only four frontline bowlers, England are always going to struggle to bowl sides out twice if one of them is misfiring, which seems to be the case with Stuart Broad, at the moment. Stephen Finn, who when he is selected, has a much better strike rate, is breathing down his neck at the moment.            

Having been somewhat underwhelmed by Cardiff as a Test venue, I was extremely impressed with the Rose Bowl. Where, fifteen years ago, cattle stood grazing on the site of a derelict hill side Hampshire farm, a stunning transformation has taken place and there now stands an intimate Test match ground which is both functional and aesthetically pleasing. The setting is stunning and the sight lines from anywhere within the arena are excellent. The ability to stroll around the wide concourse for a beer while still keeping an eye on the play is an added bonus!       

Regardless of what the farmers say, let’s hope the sun shines on the forthcoming Test series against India, currently the number one side in the world. I’ve got tickets booked for Trent Bridge and Edgbaston so I’m keeping my fingers crossed!    








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