Boycott: Pitch problem 'hurts' game

Heavy rain brought an early end to the second day of the fourth Test at Old Trafford

Heavy rain brought an early end to the second day of the fourth Test at Old Trafford

First published in National Sport News © by

Former England batsman Geoff Boycott believes the abandonment of Friday's play in the fourth Investec Test against India at Emirates Old Trafford could damage the game.

A sodden outfield prevented any play after a torrential downpour hit the Manchester ground early in the afternoon session.

Groundstaff made considerable efforts to get the surface fit for play after the rain stopped - and the sun came out - but large puddles at the Brian Statham End proved impossible to clear sufficiently.

So whilst the vast majority of the playing area was ready, umpires Marais Erasmus and Rod Tucker felt they had little option but to abandon play on safety grounds following a 5.40pm inspection.

Mike Watkinson, director of cricket at host club Lancashire, later said that recent construction work at that end of the ground had meant drainage was not as efficient as it should be.

Boycott told BBC Test Match Special: "How many cricketers would run down there? This sort of thing hurts cricket.

"The evening is set, we could easily play on. Did the groundstaff know about this? If so, they should have covered it or brought the boundary in.

"It wouldn't have been pleasant fielding on it, but we have to get on with the game. There's a bigger picture. People pay a fortune to watch. That's bigger than a couple of cricketers slipping over."

The players left the field at 2.15pm amid drizzle but that quickly became heavy rain. It did not relent until what should have been the tea interval, which was still taken as scheduled at 3.40pm.

Most of the exposed parts of the ground were covered in puddles but they drained well in all areas, aside from those in front of the new media stand and hospitality area.

Old Trafford has undergone a multi-million pound facelift in recent years in order to safeguard its future as a Test venue.

Watkinson conceded the ground staff's attempts to alleviate the problem with motorised super-soppers were futile.

The former England all-rounder told Sky Sports: "This area of ground is constructed in exactly the same way as the rest of the field.

"It's been completely reconstructed and new grass put down in April and our problem today is that the grass isn't as established as the rest of the outfield, and there's still a bit of sand in the top-dressing that's showing through there and that's where the water has settled.

"It's a low point in the field and if we have got anything wrong we've hit it with the water hog and disturbed the surface. Ideally, left alone, it will pass through.

"If you have got a crowd they expect the groundsman to be active and physically out there trying to move the water. The best way to get the water from this area is to let it go through naturally as it performs really well."

The problem comes just a week after Lancashire's T20 Blast quarter-final against Glamorgan at the same venue had to be put back a day because of rain.

Watkinson added: "Last Friday evening the entire ground was under water. A lot of water held around this area, so no chance of play on Friday.

"There was a lot of rain again on Saturday morning and we made a start at 3.15pm in the afternoon.

"So it will take the water, it drains naturally, and tomorrow will be fine for a start."

Former England captain Nasser Hussain was unimpressed with the situation.

Hussain said on Sky Sports: "On a Test ground it should be possible to restart in a reasonable amount of time."

England had been starting to regain firm control of the game when the players were taken off, having recovered from an indifferent morning to reach 237 for six, extending their lead to 85.

Batsman Ian Bell, who had earlier been dismissed for 58, said: "I think everyone is frustrated.

"It is disappointing, with the Test match balanced so nicely, not to be out there."

Tucker said the affected area was not safe for play.

The Australian told Sky Sports: "People want to see the cricket and we want to give them some.

"The area is still part of the playing area so it's got to be fit, it's a Test match, it's not an under-12s match, so player safety is an issue."

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