Jimmy Has Only Got One Ball – 1st Test, Day 2

Today had a few challengers for who ‘won’ the day’s play, but the eventual victor was definitely the weather. Just 33.4 overs were bowled in the day and, unlike yesterday, that can’t be put down solely to lethargic over rates. The morning session belonged to the tourists, with Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul both batting through the entire session until Robinson dismissed Sharma with his last ball before Lunch. The game swung back towards England in the afternoon session, helped by an overcast sky and the older ball still hooping around, with Anderson taking three quick wickets. It only lasted nine overs before bad light, followed by rain showers, effectively ended play for the day.

I use the word “effectively”, because there were in fact two further sessions where play resumed; The first lasted one ball, and the second had two balls. This reignited the debate about how cricket deals with inclement weather. It is one of the few outdoor sports which stops with light rain, or even being a bit too cloudy. The official justification is player safety, and there is obviously some areas of concern in this regard. A player might be more likely to twist their ankle on a greasy surface, or momentarily lose track of the ball in poor light, but the same is probably true in other sports such as football, baseball or field hockey which all continue in light rain.

When commentators and pundits talk about cricket’s light and rain delays, they typically talk about ‘fairness’ to either the batting or bowling team. Bad light makes a batsmen more likely to be dismissed, whilst rain might leave spinners unable to grip the ball and get turn off the pitch. I have two issues with this viewpoint. The first is that this isn’t mentioned as a factor in any of the laws or playing conditions, and so shouldn’t really be considered by the umpires. The second is that there are any number of things in cricket which might grant teams an ‘unfair’ advantage yet doesn’t result in the players leaving the field. Sometimes conditions favour the bowling team, sometimes they favour the batting team. This is honestly part of the joy of Test cricket. When a player is battling not only the opposition but also the environment, that makes their victory even sweeter. Why is it only the rain that would make such things ‘unfair’?

What no one talks about in these situations, not the players, nor the commentators, the journalists and especially not the administrators, is fairness to the fans. Most of the British people reading this will spend, at a minimum, £34 per month for Sky Sports. The cheapest adult seats at Trent Bridge today cost £55 each. Because just over thirty overs were bowled today, they won’t recieve any refunds. We pay a lot of money, invest a lot of time, and we deserve to see cricket played whenever possible. Few businesses take their customers for granted quite like professional sports, and English cricket is currently in a league of its own in this regard. The past four years of taking our money to create a league which was explicitly not for us is beyond parody. The least they could do, in the few instances when they are contractually obliged to provide what we pay for, is make some effort to carry on when it’s a bit more difficult to play.

Would using a white or pink ball to play in low light go against the traditions of the game? Sure. Would it increase the advantage of the batting or bowling side? Definitely. Is it far superior to literally everyone watching to be able to see a game of cricket rather than an empty field? Absolutely.

But that’s clearly not an important factor for cricket boards around the world.

If you have any comments about this game, the weather, or anything else, please leave them below.