Head­in­g­ley ground­staff wag­ing un­even bat­tle with the el­e­ments

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - SPORT - Chris Waters AT EMER­ALD HEAD­IN­G­LEY Email: chris.waters@ypn.co.uk Twit­ter: @CWater­sYPS­port

YORK­SHIRE have de­fended their drainage sys­tem and in­stead blamed “un­prece­dented wet weather” for the loss of all six days of cricket so far this sea­son at Head­in­g­ley.

The club are fac­ing their first com­pletely washed out County Cham­pi­onship match since 1987 – and their first at Head­in­g­ley since 1967 – af­ter no play was pos­si­ble on the third day yes­ter­day against cham­pi­ons Es­sex.

Ear­lier this month York­shire lost a three-day match against Leeds-Brad­ford MCCU, which was called off three days in ad­vance af­ter rain and snow.

And despite three days of mostly dry weather for the visit of Es­sex the out­field had not dried suf­fi­ciently to per­mit play yes­ter­day, with um­pires Ian Gould and Richard Illing­worth once more pulling the plug af­ter a postlunch in­spec­tion.

Amid cir­cu­lat­ing crit­i­cism on so­cial me­dia, with some won­der­ing why a Test ground should be so af­fected, York­shire’s chief ex­ec­u­tive Mark Arthur leapt to the de­fence of the ground staff and the drainage fa­cil­i­ties.

“The re­cent bad weather has made for chal­leng­ing con­di­tions for our ground staff,” he said, “and there have been ab­so­lutely no is­sues with our drainage sys­tem.

“The rea­sons for these de­lays are that the ground has seen un­prece­dented wet weather over the past few months.

“If you cou­ple this with low tem­per­a­tures on drier days the ground has had no chance to fully re­cover.

“Ul­ti­mately the prime concern for the um­pires has to be the health and well-be­ing of the play­ers.”

Arthur’s com­ments were echoed by di­rec­tor of cricket Mar­tyn Moxon, who said it had been one of the worst pre-sea­sons he had known in 40-odd years.

Moxon also hit back at Head­in­g­ley’s crit­ics, say­ing there was noth­ing more that grounds­man Andy Fog­a­rty and his staff could have done.

“Un­for­tu­nately that’s what so­cial me­dia can do,” said Moxon. “It gives ill-in­formed peo­ple that plat­form to voice un­fair crit­i­cism.

“Andy and his staff have worked 25 hours a day; they’ve done ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to get this ground fit, work­ing ridicu­lous hours, mop­ping the ground up and try­ing to get it cut, and so on.

“When you look at the weather we’ve had since we came back from Potchef­stroom, the few dry days that we’ve had have been cold, cloudy, we’ve hardly seen the sun, and it’s just been hope­less.”

Moxon said the play­ers are “crawl­ing up the wall” and sick of the sight of the in­door nets.

Since re­turn­ing from that pre­sea­son tour to Potchef­stroom in South Africa, York­shire’s only com­pet­i­tive out­door prac­tice came in a two-day friendly against Le­ices­ter­shire at Grace Road last week, where they spent 50 overs in the field and then bat­ted for just 11.1 overs be­fore that, too, fell foul of the weather.

“The wa­ter ta­ble is so high at Head­in­g­ley that we were only able to get out­side to prac­tice last Wed­nes­day, and even then it wasn’t fit re­ally,” added Moxon.

“We had flood­lights on, it was foggy, it was damp, driz­zling, and that was just two days be­fore the sched­uled start of the Es­sex game.

“On that Wed­nes­day morn­ing, the ground staff were pulling the sheets off and there were big chunks of ice com­ing off; the wa­ter on the sheets had frozen.

“It’s been so wet that as soon as a bowler runs-up it be­comes un­fit as wa­ter comes up in no time at all.”

York­shire’s last aban­doned Cham­pi­onship match was against Sussex at Hast­ings in 1987. Their last aban­doned Cham­pi­onship game in York­shire was against Es­sex at Sh­effield in 1985, while the last to be washed out at Head­in­g­ley was against Le­ices­ter­shire in 1967.

“It’s been the worst pre-sea­son I’ve known in 30-odd years,” said grounds­man Fog­a­rty. “It’s just freak con­di­tions; this weather seemed to start in Jan­uary and has gone right up to now.

“We’re try­ing to pre­pare pitches and the out­field, and you get one good day in be­tween seven or eight days of rain, and there’s noth­ing you can do. It’s re­ally frus­trat­ing for us as well as play­ers and spec­ta­tors.”

The main area of concern has been sec­tions of the out­field to­wards the old Foot­ball Stand. That stand is cur­rently be­ing re- built, with Head­in­g­ley more ex­posed than usual at that end of the ground, but York­shire say that has had no bearing.

“We’ve just been un­for­tu­nate and hit a bad spell of weather and not es­caped it,” said Fog­a­rty. “Ev­ery­body is suf­fer­ing around the country.

“It’s just in cer­tain ar­eas that it’s stop­ping us; it’s not the whole of the bot­tom end, only cer­tain ar­eas where the play­ers will be run­ning in and field­ing.

“The last thing we want is play­ers get­ting in­jured.”


DAMP­ENED SPIR­ITS: Wa­ter pours off the cov­ers at Head­in­g­ley on day one of York­shire’s County Cham­pi­onship match with Es­sex. No play has been pos­si­ble for the first three days of the first county match of the sea­son and di­rec­tor of cricket Mar­tyn Moxon says the play­ers are ‘crawl­ing up the wall’ with frus­tra­tion.

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