England frustrated at damp Headingley as first Ireland ODI is abandoned

By Sports Desk September 20, 2023

Joe Root’s hopes of a final World Cup warm-up at Headingley were washed out after the first match of their Metro Bank Series against Ireland was abandoned due to concerns over the bowlers’ run-ups.

Root had requested to play at his home ground – the only member of the tournament team to feature in what was essentially a second string – after struggling for form in the recent clashes with New Zealand, but saw his hopes of a confidence-boosting innings dashed.

The match was officially abandoned at 4.50pm – more than four hours and several inspections after the scheduled start time – with rain having wrecked bowlers’ approach at the Kirkstall Lane End.

When the decision was finally made by umpires Mike Burns and Adrian Holdstock the skies had been dry for the best part of three hours, usually enough time to complete the mopping up work.

But, while the main covers successfully protected the pitch itself, groundstaff were unable to protect an area of the square that is seen as a non-negotiable in terms of player safety. Questions over how and why such an important area of the pitch was left unfit for play will surely be raised, with the quality of covers and drainage among the issues ripe for exploration.

England captain Zak Crawley, who was due to lead his country for the first time, was frustrated by the lack of action but accepted that conditions were not playable for international cricket.

“I was very disappointed we didn’t get a game on. It was just the run-up at one end, really. It wasn’t fit for play and I think that was probably right in the end,” he said.

“You’ve got guys tearing in there and you don’t want them not performing at their best, that’s not what people come to see. I think as soon as there’s any doubt, they probably made the right decision.

“It was very wet and would have churned up if we’d played on it. It wouldn’t have been fit for the bowlers. We were unlucky with the weather leading into the game and then rain all this morning as well. I’m not sure there’s anymore the groundsmen could have done, they worked very hard to try and get the game on.”

Crawley suggested a place would be held open for Root in the second match at Trent Bridge on Saturday, but the expectation is that he will now join the remaining members of the World Cup squad in returning home and enjoying some down time before a gruelling seven-week tournament.

“I think he’s going to rest now before the World Cup. That was his plan before, anyway,” said Crawley.

“I’m not certain, but if he wants to have a bat that’s his decision, of course.”

Around 10,000 paying fans were left disappointed by their day, with a further 4,000 tickets estimated to have been distributed via local clubs and schools.

Whether a more creative solution might have been available is something of a moot point given the strict playing conditions which govern international cricket, with Crawley unmoved by the idea of completing a 20-over match from just one end or using a reserve pitch at short notice.

“That’s a tough one. You don’t want to lose what the game is, changing the rules too much,” he said.

“You don’t want to make it too different from what the game usually is. I supposed there are some things we could do in the future but for now I’m not sure there’s anything they could have done.”

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