Last Wednesday was a brilliant day for cricket. Despite starting after 12:30, the long days of this time of year, combined with a lack of interruptions meant we played a full 100 overs. Well, we could have if we hadn't been bowled out over 100 runs short with 17 overs to spare. The sunny, not too hot weather topped with the usual tea between innings made for a great day's cricket (apart from the result).
Yesterday, however, was another matter altogether. Even before we realised that our opponents had decided to forfeit and not even appear, we feared that the day might be marred by that age-old enemy of cricket - rain. In the end, the rain was not strong enough to stop our slightly silly six-a-side practice match, but it did make it even sillier, although not as silly as they game we played on a mud pitch last year when boths teams needed the points for a win.
When rain hit the World Cup Final between Australian and Sri Lanka at the end of April, some commentators said it was a fitting end to a disastrous tournament. Ironically, it was the one negative aspect of the tournament that probably couldn't have been handled much better, at least at first. Noone wants to a reduced length match, but noone can stop the rain, or successfully schedule matches to avoid it. It would only be wise to follow the suggestion of completely postponing the match to the reserve day if you could be sure there would less trouble from rain then, even before considering the effects of such a move on spectators and players.
The idea of making use of the reserve day before reducing the number of overs at all is more attractive, but weakening the emphasis on finishing the game in one day does strike at the very heart of the philosophy of the one-day game. Of course, in the final, play was stopped even before the reduced number of overs had been bowled, due to poor light, which could have been combatted if light towers had been installed.
If the ICC were to insist that venues for games as important as the WC final be equipped with lights, there would have been several more hours available for the game, and the rain interruption may not have mattered. But if it's reasonable to extend day games into the night, surely that would suggest that games like this should be scheduled to start in the morning in the first place, even in places where day-night games traditionally draw in the crowds. I wonder whether the ACB and co. would agree to that!
As it was, even after the day was spoilt by natural causes, we saw the bizarre spectacle of players going back out onto the ground and playing in darkness because they had been told that otherwise they would have to come back the next day. I'm not sure how the umpires reached this conclusion. After all, if that were the case, there was no point in originally reducing the number overs. Simon Taufel, recently ranked the world's best umpire, does not seem to have been involved as he was Australian, but the calibre of the five relevant umpires leaves them no excuse for officiously applying the playing conditions so blatantly incorrectly. This is especially true considering the fact that the second ranked umpire, Darrell Hair, was not at the tournament after the debacle at the Oval which ended in the first forfeited Test match. While there are many issues involved, his part in declaring the match ended, labelled over officious by some, was at least a correct application of the Laws.
This farce really was a fitting finale to a flop of a World Cup, and while I don't think the ICC and umpires deserve most of the blame, by ending it this way they will be remembered as the winners of the World Cup of flops. If only we could leave behind the weed killer, forfeits and rain and keep playing with sunny days and tea in the pavilion.