An Ill Wind

“Imagine if the game had been the championship decider.”

For once I had to agree with Alec Stewart the Surrey Director of Cricket speaking about today’s abandonment of the top of the table championship contest at Taunton. But given the ways Somerset’s fortune (or lack of it) has twisted us supporters over the last few years, it wouldn’t have come as a surprise if a championship winning position described by Andrew Cornish. Somerset’s Chief Executive as an “Act of God”.

I’ve been accused by many people in my life of being over-sensitive. So when I wondered aloud (in a tweet) at the report of the incident by David Hopps of ESPN Cricinfo if this was the case here with regard to the veiled implications that Somerset were guilty of some sort of malpractice to deny Surrey a tenth consecutive victory, or more to the point, pad their second- placed position in Division One I was intrigued to get an immediate reply.

Mr Hopps’ response stated that he merely, “described the facts as I knew them, cropped some pictures shoved the quotes in and referenced recent ECB history.” All of which is true. But I’ve read the article again and it seems to be the use of the words “according” with reference to Cornish’s statement and “pleaded” in the context of the Act of God reference there is clear inference that Somerset may not be blameless. The juxtapositioning of the elements of the story and the clear link to the Middlesex pitch of last September and the Lancashire pitch of 2 weeks ago is unfortunate at best.

I’ll let you read the article if you haven’t already and decide.

The real issue for us Somerset fans to consider here. The fact that rain got under the covers, and then tyre tracks appeared on the pitch – presumably – as the covers were removed, does not reflect well on the county. We will never know if more could have been done but at the very least Somerset need to look again at their ground covering procedures compared to their peers.

 

Of course the situation looks worse for Somerset because they were in a parlous state needing to bat through the 4thday with only 7 wickets in hand to avoid defeat. I’d like to think that Tom Abell, Azhar Ali et al could have survived what would almost certainly have been a truncated day, but it was a big ask. The frustration for Surrey was understandable especially as they were denied the chance of a 10th victory on the bounce. But I suspect Alec Stewart was being more than a little mischievous when he mused, “What are the repercussions? It is just an abandoned game. It is the home side’s responsibility to make sure the covering is secure. I don’t know.”

Stewart, who we know sought every little advantage as a player is, in my opinion, doing something similar here. He knows that by adding further doubt over the Taunton pitch and Somerset as a club he increases the potential of a points deduction next season. Something that could be to Surrey’s advantage if Somerset can repeat their championship form in 2019 and be a serious challenger to Surrey.

To quote Hopps again.

“Somerset are already in danger of incurring the ECB’s wrath. They were warned by the ECB’s disciplinary committee that they were “treading a very fine line” after beating (Hopps error) Lancashire on a sharply turning pitch in their last home fixture that was eventually marked as below average.”

Food for thought. One thing is for certain. Somerset have to be whiter than the whitest white next season. No margin for error.

Spare a thought for poor Jack Leach. Earlier in the season, just before the England squad for the first test against Pakistan was due to be announced he broke his thumb during the warm-ups ahead of the fourth day against Hampshire at Taunton. Today, he was robbed of the chance to have his selection for the forthcoming tour to Sri Lanka announced to the Taunton crowd by the abandonment.

‘tis a cruel wind.