- Former batsman said the abandonment was wrong at Old Trafford
- Thousands of spectators were disappointed after the session ended
- Groundstaff tried to stop the problems but puddles formed
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 clear sufficiently.
Waterlogged: The downpour in Manchester left the Old Trafford outfield looking like a reservoir
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, apologised to spectators said that recent construction work at that end 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 officially taken as scheduled at 3.40pm.
Dark skies: The clouds stopped above Old Trafford and unleashed a rain storm down on to the outfield
Puddles formed across much of the uncovered ground but they drained well in all areas with the exception of 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 felt groundstaff acted with the best intentions – as supporters would expect to see work being done – but conceded attempting to alleviate the problem with motorised super-soppers was probably counter-productive.
The former England all-rounder told BBC Radio Five Live: ‘We apologise if people feel let down, but these are extreme circumstances.
‘It was an extremely heavy downpour and most grounds would have struggled.
‘It?s frustrating when you get circumstances like this that prevent maybe an hour?s play at the end of the day.
‘We have an area that has some new grass, some turf that is not quite as established as the rest of the field.
‘The drainage is fine, but it was used for some construction work during the off-season. The pitch drains to this side, there is a natural fall. This is where the water congregates.
‘If we have got anything wrong, it?s hitting it with the waterhog and disturbing the surface. Ideally, it would drain through naturally.
Delay: Joe Root (right) and Jos Buttler (left) leave the field after rain stopped play not long after lunch on Friday
‘Maybe trying to look right instead of letting the ground perform as it is designed has made it worse than it is.’
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 on Sky Sports: ‘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. It is a shame that one heavy shower has ended with the whole day called off.’
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.
‘The groundstaff have worked really hard to get us out there and it is a shame for everyone – players, supporters.’
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.’
On top: Joe Root is unbeaten on 48 for England as they lead India by 85 runs with four wickets in hand
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Geoffrey Boycott says stopping play at India Test could harm cricket and says … – Daily Mail