Delayed due to good weather - Explaining cricket's bizarre phenomenon at McLean Park

Section
News,
Publish Date
Thursday, 24 January 2019, 7:44AM
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Photosport

Yesterday's ODI at McLean Park in Napier possibly created a first in New Zealand international cricket – a match that was delayed by good weather.

Yes, too much sun led to a 37-minute delay during the first ODI between the Black Caps and India, as the glare from the sunset over the stadium caused difficulties for the players to see.

It was understood to be the first instance of such a delay occurring during the middle of an international innings in New Zealand.

Two years ago, a Twenty20 against Bangladesh at McLean Park saw the same problem occur, but fortunately during the innings break, and domestic cricket fans were aware of the "sunstrike", with a Twenty20 clash between Central Districts and Canterbury on Saturday being delayed for the same reason.

The unique phenomenon comes about in day-night games, when the sun sets over the Chapman Stand. Because the McLean Park pitches are aligned east-to-west, rather than the traditional north-to-south, the glare shines directly down the wicket when there is limited cloud cover. It most notably affects the batsmen, and the fielders down on the fine leg and third man boundaries.

However, it was a new experience for many when the players had to walk off the park, just an over after the dinner break, with India at 44-1 in their chase of 158 for victory. It left fans to unleash the Mexican wave as they waited for the shadow, imitating a sundial, to slowly move across the wicket, with the Indian innings eventually resuming with just one over lost due to the delay - and their required chase reduced to 156, a target they reached with eight wickets to spare.

Umpire Shaun George said the delay was a first for him in his 14 years of umpiring, but explained why he utilised Law 2.7.2 - "Conditions shall be regarded as dangerous if there is actual and foreseeable risk to the safety of any player or umpire" – to delay the game.

"We have a setting sun which is directly in the eyes of the batsmen – we have to take into consideration the safety of players – not only the batsmen but the umpires, and the players fielding behind the stumps as well," said George.

Black Caps captain Kane Williamson noted that there was nothing that could be done about the situation.

"We knew that in some of the domestic Twenty 20 games that it had been the case, and [the glare] is fairly considerable so it did have to happen. It's hard to move the sun and hard to move the grandstand, we didn't have either of those options so we had to sit down for a bit," Williamson joked.

Still, it wasn't the greatest look for a ground which hadn't hosted an ODI in nearly four years. Drainage issues caused farcical scenes in 2017 when an ODI against Australia was abandoned despite hours of sunshine – the second year in a row a game was called off due to a wet outfield. A $4.9 million investment later, and a new turf was ready for its first game, but there were still delays, thanks to the sun.

There is one more international game being played at McLean Park this summer, with Bangladesh visiting for a one-dayer on February 13. But with Mount Maunganui's Bay Oval and Nelson's Saxton Oval pushing for more international cricket, McLean Park could be put under pressure when it comes to hosting further internationals.

However, Williamson was unflustered by the delay, and said he enjoyed returning to Napier.

"It's great to be back here in Napier playing cricket, they're a proud cricketing area and every time we come here there's a good crowd – albeit it maybe 80 per cent were Indian today, but that's still cool – and it is a great place to come and play.

"We've had a number of good results here, [yesterday] certainly wasn't the case, but at the same time it's great that cricket's back here in Napier."

This article was first published on nzherald.co.nz and is republished here with permission.

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