In Brief

Ashes 4th Test: England, and the weather, fail to warm to their task

Maybe scheduling a Test in Manchester in September was not the best idea?

The Ashes 2019: England vs. Australia
  • 4th Test, day one at Old Trafford 
  • Australia first innings: 170-3 (44 overs) 
  • England first innings: yet to bat 

The warning in Wednesday’s Manchester Evening News proved spot-on. “Wrap up warm and take a waterproof as the weather is looking rather miserable,” the paper advised its readers who were heading to the fourth Ashes Test at Old Trafford.

As it turned out, the fans who braved the first day’s play didn’t just need to put on a coat but tie themselves to their seats to prevent being blown up to Scotland. 

Wet, windy, and very cold summed up the weather, which conspired to allow only 44 overs to be bowled.

In that time Australia reached 170-3 with Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne sharing a partnership of 116 before the latter was bowled for 67 by Craig Overton late on in the day. 

Smith, who showed no ill-effects of the concussion that ruled him out of last month’s third Test, is unbeaten on 60.

Blue language

By that stage spectators had either turned blue or boisterous, using the long delays caused by bad weather to warm the cockles at the bar. 

Two Australian supporters evidently sipped too long at the amber nectar and were ejected from the ground for directing “foul and abusive” language towards England’s Jofra Archer, which according to BBC Sport concerned questions about his British passport.

Arctic

Spare a thought for all the players, particularly the England team, champing at the bit to keep the momentum going created by their astonishing victory at Headingley, but whose body language they would rather be sitting by the fire with a cup of hot cocoa. 

“It was arctic cold out there,” remarked Sky Sports cricket commentator Nasser Hussain. “Players do walk around with their hands in their pockets because you’ve got handwarmers in your pockets so it looks a bit flat.”

Inaccurate Archer

The weather was the reason why the much-anticipated confrontation between Smith and Archer failed to live up to the pre-match hype. 

Buffeted by the high winds and frozen by the temperature, the England fast bowler was unable to find his rhythm, let alone his speed, on a pitch that is slow and benign. Perhaps it’s also had been numbed by the weather.

The only things moving with speed for much of the day were the various objects being blown across the Old Trafford pitch: crisp packets, a beach ball, an umpire’s hat, a spare helmet and even the bails, which eventually were removed by the umpires who then allowed play to continue.

Smith batted the beach ball away, which raised a small cheer on a day when the English and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) probably wondered why they had scheduled a Test Match in Manchester in September.

Australia’s Steve Smith hits a beach ball on day one of the Old Trafford Ashes Test

Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images

What they said about the weather 

BBC Sport: “The rain came in sideways on thumping squalls, tearing the flapping beige covers from the frozen fingers of the ground staff, sending a steward in a clear plastic poncho staggering sideways as he tried to keep his feet on the outfield like a fisherman on the deck of a North Sea trawler.”

The Sun: “What a triumph this wasn’t for the bright spark at the ECB who decided to stage an Ashes Test in Manchester in the autumn.”

Sydney Morning Herald: “Biting cold, squally rain, mad cross-wind blowing off the bails repeatedly: it could only be Manchester. Melbourne has four seasons in one day, Manchester has them in an hour.” 

Mike Atherton in The Times: “A September Test match in Manchester was always playing dice with the weather, and the conditions were foul - cold, rainy and blustery.”

Australia batsman Marnus Labuschagne: “It was very windy out there. I’ve never played a game where you’ve played with no bails, so that was very different. All in all, it was pretty tough conditions for bowling out there.”

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