VIEW FROM THE BLUES: Rules on playing in bad weather need to be sorted out

GOOD INNINGS - Rob Newton
GOOD INNINGS - Rob Newton
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This week’s topic is bad weather. There is a rule of thumb in professional cricket that the fewer paid punters left in the ground after long rain breaks, the more chance the umpires can call the game off, regardless of the playing conditions.

On day one of this week’s LV= Championship Division Two match with Surrey, there were just 10 people on the ground as stumps were pulled at 4pm on Monday after heavy morning rain.

I felt it was perfectly playable conditions in drying wind and sunshine, but it seems as there was no one around, then the attitude was ‘why not pack up?’

Apparently the umpires asked the two captains if they wanted to play in the conditions and they agreed not to.

To contrast that, on the previous Friday night, the umpires played on in grey, cold and dank conditions at a Durham ground without floodlights for the Twenty20 game as the Steelbacks slipped to a disappointing opening defeat to the Jets.

The light was not fair on the Steelbacks, and you would have thought it’s about time the ECB set a universal light limit across all formats to protect the guys and not allow seam bowlers in that Twenty20 gloom to keep bowling fast to get cheap wickets.

They also need to protect the fans from the clubs’ play in all conditions approach to stop refunds.

The hypocrisy is easy to see as the umpires refuse to allow play in championship games when the conditions are 10 times better than those murky one-day affairs.

What I’m trying to say that Health & Safety and fairness appears to have nothing to do with these decisions on play.

Okay, Northants would have probably lost at Durham anyway as the home side looked on for a big score, but at least make it playable umpires.

That run rate of -5.1 from the Durham match will be almost impossible to recover now.

Day two at Wantage Road and the showers decided to hold hands and try and wipe out another day, with what could have been an interesting glamour tie now a soggy mess, and no Kevin Pietersen in the vistors’ squad dampening things more.

I was looking forward to having a chat with him - I speak some Afrikaans!

One session was possible on day two as Northants battled the conditions to finish on 107 for two, Stephen Peters again scoring a half-century and clearly up for prolonging his playing career.

After The Times announced in an article last week thaat we have the worst scoreboard on the circuit, a new one that displayed Peters’ fourth half-century of the season has arrived, but there are already complaints.

The mostly elderly punters in the ground are unable to read it in the gloom - and in bright sunshine.

It appears to be a temporary structure powered by huge batteries with exposed electrics, and doesn’t display which bowlers have bowled what.

Day three and much better weather as the two captains agreed not to salvage the game as a batting-point draw was settled into and a full day’s play saw Northants being bowled out for 309.

Peters made an excellent boundary-packed 82, and Rob Newton dominated the middle innings with 95 before getting a decent ball, but at 213 for three and Adam Rossington hitting it crisply, no one else seemed prepared to play themselves in and an assortment of poor shots and gentle turn saw the home team fold just before tea.

You could see all of the intensity had gone from the game and it was pretty much played out like a friendly.

The flat home pitches and squad rotation is beginning to make some of the lads coast at home I feel.

So there was no KP in this match, but the world’s most prolific batsmen still playing was on the ground in Kumar Sangakkara, and he was 28 not out as Surrey closed the day on 155 for three.

On this pitch and with the weather set fair for the final day a hundred would be a formality if he was in the mood.

And he was indeed in the mood, the most perfunctory of centuries (111) to take his first-class ton total to 52, the second highest in the county championship right now to Marcus Trescothick’s 56.

Jason Roy also helped himself to a career-best 140 on yet another slab of concrete.

Gary Wilson declared the innings and shook hands on 499 for six declared with 74 not out and another tedious draw.

It looks to me like coach David Ripley targeted two batting draws against the ‘big two teams’ at Wantage Road on these lifeless strips, but it’s just boring to watch and proves very little - I reckon the United Arab Emirates could hold Australia in a Test match on these!

You can see the likes of David Willey and Mohamed Azharullah are visibly annoyed on having to bowl on these surfaces week in week out.

We may well be second in the table, but we are seeing the end of county cricket as we know it as the second division becomes increasingly expensive to subsidise for little return, and so more and more irrelevant to the ECB every year.

It’s annoying because we are putting ourselves behind the black ball and not the opposition.