We were in Bristol to see England play Sri Lanka yesterday. Without wishing to saunter too far into match report territory, we and our companions finished the day by setting a strict departure time when we would cease standing around in the rain and would instead head home.
It wasn’t that we thought there was still some outside chance of play. It was more that this is the traditional way of going about things when a match is being rained off. You make a deadline and you stick to it in defiance of reason. Watching cricket on a rainy day is very much about summoning optimism in the face of facts and to stand there in the rain, knowing the match was finished, seemed the purest example of this spirit.
We knew the match had finished not because it had been officially announced, but because, like everyone in the crowd, we had access to all manner of weather apps and rainfall radars and the like. If truth be known, long before their arrival at the ground, pretty much everyone in the crowd knew that the players would depart mid-afternoon, never to be seen again.
The match was viewed in that knowledge. Most people knew they were there to see a one innings game; that all that was taking place before them was in all likelihood meaningless. This seems an odd situation.
When a one-day match is hit by rain, it is shortened. However, matches are never shortened in anticipation of rain. Is this right?
The danger of shortening a match for rain-that-is-yet-to-come is of course that said rain might never fall, leading to the bizarre spectacle of the match ending prematurely in bright sunshine. This does however seem to us a more acceptable outcome than the going-through-the-motions half game we witnessed yesterday.
Perhaps the umpires – or better yet, some well-informed locals – could be entrusted to make a call on shortening a match based on the likelihood of impending rain. There are days of scattered showers and there are days where a wall of water is slowly looming into view from the west and it’s just a matter of time. In the latter case, a halving of the overs would seem sensible.
And if informed people in positions of power are unwilling to take such a decision, they could always absolve themselves of responsibility by putting it to a public vote.