The Ashes: Day of lunacy at Old Trafford is what ECB get for scheduling autumn Test match in Manchester – The Sun

The Ashes: Day of lunacy at Old Trafford is what ECB get for scheduling autumn Test match in Manchester – The Sun

September 4, 2019

A CRISP packet stopped play, a beach ball stopped play, an umpire’s hat stopped play, a spare helmet stopped play, the bails blew away and stopped play.

And then at 5.30pm — with the weather dry and just 18 overs after 26,000 punters had shivered their way through a three-hour rain break — the tea break stopped play.

Perhaps it was that bowlers Ben Stokes and Craig Overton were so desperate for a Penguin they could barely summon the strength to go on.

Maybe Steve Smith was simply gasping for a can of Tizer.

Or could it be that the paying audience — many dressed like North Sea trawlermen high up in the Foster’s Party Stand — were disregarded by a sport which has an uncanny habit of shooting itself in the foot.

What a triumph this wasn’t for the bright spark at the ECB who decided to stage an Ashes Test in Manchester in the autumn.

The previous day of this series — that sensational Stokes-fuelled Sunday at Headingley — was as glorious and gripping a sporting spectacle as you could ever wish to see.


But this first day of the Fourth Test at Old Trafford was as farcical as anything you might witness on a village green.

Smith has been seeing it like a beach ball for the last couple of Ashes series.

And suddenly it really was a beach ball that flew out of the stand, evaded a fielder and ended up being swept to the square-leg boundary by the near-invincible Australian batsman.

Stuart Broad was soon stopped in his run-up by Marnus Labuschagne as an empty Wotsits packet flew across the batsman’s eyeline.

The helmet behind Jonny Bairstow began to move, umpire Marais Erasmus was forced to swap his wide-brimmed hat for a baseball cap, while fellow umpire Kumar Dharmasena went boldly hatless. And then we all marvelled at the saga of the bails.

The original bails blew off, then we had several overs with no bails at all.


And that was followed by fourth umpire Rob Bailey (yes, really) bringing out some heavier bails, with nails in them, according to Overton.

Finally, the lunacy that saw the players marching off for a cuppa several minutes before one last terminal burst of rain, to widespread booing.

The rulebook which governs playing times in this sport is the greatest example of nonsense verse since Lewis Carroll wrote Jabberwocky.

It is written by jobsworths, who allow no common sense from the umpires and show contempt for those who take time off work and pay through the nose to be here.

Labuschagne said: “It was frustrating for everyone. I pulled away once because I thought the bails had fallen off. Then the crisp packets kept coming past — and the beach ball.

“It was frustrating for the game in general and they were getting frustrated that we pulled away.

“When they put the bails on, you could see the stump shake and it was a matter of time before they came off.

“It was very windy. I’ve never played a game where you play with no bails before.”


As for the actual cricket, well the idea that England were riding an unstoppable wave of momentum was quickly blown away in the gale-force gusts.

Broad dismissed Warner, his own personal Flopsy or Mopsy, for a duck and then trapped fellow opener Marcus Harris.

But Smith and Labuschagne — playing together for the first time in Tests — shared a century partnership to put the tourists in control.

Jofra Archer, bowling in a sweater and struggling in the strong crosswind, was suddenly in popgun mode.

Overton, in his first home Test, did manage to dislodge a heavy bail to get rid of Labuschagne with one that nipped back sharply — but not before he had completed a fourth straight half-century.

It seemed an eternity since Stokes was playing impossible ramp shots and switch hits for six during his magnificent unbeaten 135 in the baking heat of Leeds.

These are early days but England may end up praying for more heavy weather to keep this series tied heading into next week’s final Test at The Oval.

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