Sunday 27th June 2021 – The Vitality T20 Blast – The County Ground, Hove
It takes one second to change history, one goal to change a football match and one ball to settle a cricket match. Or in this case, not one ball.
With rain falling on the County Ground at Hove around 6.30pm on Sunday evening, and one ball left in the 5th over of Sussex’ innings, the umpires took the players off. Play had been halted after Sussex captain Luke Wright had been struck on the helmet by a ball from Kyle Jamieson. This was the second stoppage of the game and it proved to be the death knell for the game.
The rules of the competition state that for a game to be “settled”, a minimum of five overs have to be completed by both sides and the Duckworth Lewis scoring method being applicable. Surrey had bowled 4.5 overs, meaning the game was one ball short of a result, which based on the D/L par score, would have seen Sussex Sharks win.
The forecast had been poor for the afternoon but nevertheless I set out in the hope of seeing a game. I took all the necessary precautions for sitting in one of the open stands but despite a heavy shower on the way down the A23, the rain hadn’t made it over the South Downs by the time the players took the field for the 2.30pm start.
In a tight division, both sides needed a win, especially the hosts who had seen three of their last four games end in no result due to the weather. They won the toss and put Surrey in but were soon left to regret the decision as they visitors started at ten an over, before Will Jacks mistimed a cover drive and gave skipper Wright the easiest of catches. It wasn’t long after that the rain started hammering it down. Fans ran for cover, whilst the groundsmen ran for the covers. Not being an umbrella person I sat, nursing my now watered down beer for fifteen minutes before the rain subsided. That showed them.
Play resumed just after four pm, but the forecast was poor as the afternoon wore on. The spare hour set aside for weather delays had been used up but Surrey were able to complete their twenty overs, Overton’s cameo 14 ball, 26 out of 28 runs in boundaries a highlight although the biggest cheer from the 2,000+ crowd was reserved when Ollie Robinson removed Jamie Smith for 57, the highest individual score of the day.
Knowing that the weather was against them, Sussex’s opening pair, Phil Salt and Luke Wright set about trying to ensure there was a result. Salt, who has already proved his worth in the T20s this season smashed three sixes in a rapid 20 before being caught by Evans off Overton in the fourth over. But with the score on 43, Wright was struck on the head and had to have the mandatory concussion check. The D/L par score was 36.
The umpires took the players off, despite only one ball needed for a result. Surrey couldn’t win and will have been jumping for joy that it couldn’t be bowled and they came away with a share of the points. Bizarrely, had the weather cleared up and play was possible, neither team would have been required to go back out to play to allow the result to stand, but with no play possible and the cut off time approaching, the game was abandoned. Naturally, Sussex were fuming.
Similar situations have occurred before and actually led to Frank Duckworth and Tony Lewis, the statisticians who created the rain rule which bears their name, to clarify their sentiment in saying basically that the par score should be constantly changing to reflect the progress of the game. The umpires interpretation was different, using a five over minimum per side to determine whether a game had been played.
Sussex Sharks have suffered more than other teams in the division in terms of the weather and whilst the point keeps them in fourth place and on course for the quarter finals, a win would have seen them leapfrog the visitors into third.
It certainly wasn’t the afternoon I or any of the other 2,499 fans had planned, but sport without drama would be as exciting as watching the grass grow, or the rain fall.