Australia’s ODI against New Zealand in Napier has ended in farcical fashion, with play abandoned because of a sodden field that both teams had deemed unsafe. The trans-Tasman match was listed to start at noon (AEDT) but that was when the covers, anchored at McLean Park throughout a dreary morning, came off for the first time.
Some five inspections of the wet field – and not a single drop of rain – followed before umpires Kumar Dharmasena and Chris Brown eventually called the game off after having a final look at 4:30 pm. An ODI can be shortened to 20 overs per side and still constitute a game, hence why so many in the near-capacity crowd remained at the ground for the day. Some frustrated fans shouted abuse during the delays.
Curator Phil Stoyanoff, Dharmasena, Brown plus opposing skippers Aaron Finch and Kane Williamson shared a lengthy discussion at 3:30pm during the fourth inspection. All five men appeared unhappy at various points. Dharmasena and Brown inspected the pitch and field twice before agreeing on a start time of 2:45pm, with the contest reduced to 37 overs a side.
However, that became the time of a third pitch inspection when opposing captains Finch and Williamson spoke with Dharmasena and Brown some five minutes before the coin was due to be tossed. It’s understood both Finch and Williamson declared the field wasn’t fit for play. Water came to the surface when both teams were warming up.
Finch and Williamson earlier convened on the cusp of the inner circle, with Australia’s stand-in skipper none too pleased with the size of a divot created when he kicked the turf. Finch, Williamson, Dharmasena and Brown had another animated chat after the third inspection.
In addition to the two skippers, management from both sides expressed concerns to match referee Ranjan Madugalle. The venue’s drainage has been an issue in the past. A one-dayer between New Zealand and the West Indies in 2013 and last year’s ODI between the hosts and Pakistan were both abandoned without a ball bowled.
Australia will regroup and aim to draw the three-match series on Sunday in the Hamilton finale. The Blackcaps won the first game in Auckland despite a magnificent undefeated 146 from Marcus Stoinis.