Worcs ‘delighted’ at ECB pitch report

The outfield at Worcestershire's 117-year-old home remained saturated for all four days of their opening County Championship match of the season at home to Kent

The outfield at Worcestershire’s 117-year-old home remained saturated for all four days

Worcestershire have been cleared by the England and Wales Cricket Board after an investigation into the abandonment of their opening County Championship game against Kent at New Road.

Interim chief executive Tom Scott said he was “delighted” with a Cricket Discipline Commission ruling of “no grounds for any further action”.

But commission chairman Gerard Elias QC, did offer one note of caution.

He raised concerns about playing matches so early in April.

Mr Elias has “invited the ECB to consider whether any further actions and/or safeguards were possible to seek to ensure that county grounds staging matches in April were more likely to be able to do so satisfactorily.”

With a history of flooding throughout the year because of its proximity to the River Severn, New Road is more prone to being under water than most grounds.

It is more usually in the winter months when it is affected, sometimes even as late as February or March, and the start date of 10 April for the four-day meeting with Kent was the second-earliest ever to a Championship season at New Road – the home game against Yorkshire in 2012 having begun on 8 April.

The loss of the Kent game was the first time that Worcestershire’s opening fixture has been totally washed out in over a century, although the early May meeting with Bill Lawry’s 1968 Australian tour team also failed to get under way.

But it also awakened unfortunate memories of a more recent abandonment, coincidentally also against Kent, following the great flood of June 2007.

A further downpour also caused the abandonment of the following month’s game against Lancashire before the county rerouted to Chester Road, Kidderminster for the remainder of that season’s four-day fixtures.

ECB findings on the New Road pitch

Gerard Elias, QC, found there was no evidence that the pitch itself was unfit, or that Worcestershire had, by the action or wilful inaction of its groundstaff, done anything which adversely impacted upon the possibility of play.

He was satisfied that reasonable decisions and actions had been taken by the club in the light of the condition of the playing area in the period leading up to the match and weather conditions that prevailed.

In the 24 hours before the commencement of the match, when the home team practised on the whole of the square and playing area, Worcestershire reasonably believed that the ground would be fit for the match the following day.

Worcestershire’s response

“We are delighted with the response and findings of the ECB investigation into our game against Kent,” said Scott.

“We were as disappointed as anyone that the elements conspired. It was not what we desired from a playing point of view and financially. We also have sympathy with supporters from both sides who may have travelled considerable distances and spent substantial funds and were frustrated by events.

“But the fact of the matter is that on the Friday before the game the outfield was perfectly playable and the players were also able to practise on the Saturday. That we then had substantial amounts of rain over two of the next three days is nothing we had no control over.

“Everyone at Worcestershire County Cricket Club was left frustrated, none more so than the groundstaff who had put in Herculean work to ensure the ground was fit to play after our two winter floods.”

Next up at New Road

After a week off following the abandonment against Kent, Worcestershire drew with Gloucestershire at Bristol last week.

England Lions batsman Joe Clarke, still only 19, posted his highest first-class score, 135, while England all-rounder Moeen Ali made 210 runs in the match.

On Sunday, their international credentials will be under the scrutiny of England captain Alastair Cook, when Essex visit New Road.

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