Joe Root’s bid to have one final hit before England’s World Cup departure was thwarted by a sodden outfield and what proved a maddening abandonment at Headingley.
Boos rang around the ground when the first one-day international against Ireland was called off at 4.50pm without a ball bowled. It had not rained for more than two hours by this stage but sections of the outfield – including the run-up area for bowlers at the Kirkstall Lane End – were deemed dangerous by the officials.
As well as leaving 14,000 spectators dismayed, and forcing the England and Wales Cricket Board to issue refunds via insurance, it denied Root the extra time in the middle he was craving. The No 3 had put his name forward for the first match played by this otherwise second-string England side before next week’s flight.
Recent scores of six, nought, four and 29 against New Zealand had prompted this but given the difference in expected conditions in India – and two warm-up matches in Guwahati before England’s campaign begins against the Black Caps in Ahmedabad on 5 October – it was hard to see a great deal of value in it for Root.
Not that this wasn’t the latest indictment of attempting to stage international cricket in England in late September, with Headingley having experienced three days of rain during the lead-up. The Sky commentator Dominic Cork, who had been out in the middle during the wait for the final inspection, confirmed the ground was still boggy underfoot.
“It wasn’t fit for play and I think that was probably the right call in the end,” said Zak Crawley, who must now wait until Saturday’s second ODI at Trent Bridge to captain England for the first time. “It was very wet and it would have churned up if we’d played.
“It wouldn’t have been fit for the bowlers. It’s disappointing. You’ve got guys tearing in [to bowl at that end] and you don’t want guys not performing at their best, that’s not what people come to see.”
Asked if the sport should consider being more flexible in these scenarios, such as playing a shortened match exclusively from one end, Crawley replied: “You don’t want to lose what the game is by changing the rules too much. This time of year it doesn’t dry as well. I’m not sure there’s any more the groundsmen could have done.
On the chances of Root deciding to stick around and play on Saturday, Crawley added: “I think he’s going to rest now until the World Cup.”