If the ECB want to try and expand cricket to “mums and kids” with no knowledge of the game, perhaps it’s best not to start by explaining this match between Hampshire and Essex.
Just 28 overs either side of lunch were possible on the third day before umpires Paul Baldwin and Neil Bainton ended play due to bad light. A delay of two hours had occurred shortly before lunch, despite the light appearing no worse than when there had been cricket taking place.
Hampshire lost two wickets when play recommenced at 2.45pm but 25 minutes later the players were directed to walk off once again, to the frustration of a crowd so depleted you could use an abacus to count them. Stumps was officially called just after 6pm, three hours after the last ball had been bowled.
The umpires are at the behest of the light meter, with the first substandard reading taken as a benchmark for future readings — if the light is below that initial number, play cannot continue; equally, it cannot resume until above that reading.
But there are suggestions that Baldwin and Bainton may well have taken the reading too early on Saturday afternoon and thus crippling their own ability to get the game going.
“When you’re out there you don’t really notice it, you just carry on unless there’s a dramatic change,” said Hampshire’s Jimmy Adams, who was at the crease when bad light stopped play on the second afternoon.
“I didn’t necessarily feel it was overly dark at that moment but certainly through periods of yesterday and even today there were times where it probably was.”
“In some ways the umpires made a call that bad light was in play yesterday, but the time they made it has probably reflected badly in the sense that it’s meant we haven’t been able to get back out.”
Over the second and third days, 135 overs were lost to bad light, an inexplicably large figure given the absence of any actual rain. With the floodlights shining brightly all day, questions over this number are inevitable.
Again, provisions are in place — once the artificial light takes over from the natural light, it is considered too dark to continue. That undoubtedly became the case a little before 4pm.
If this was a day/night fixture, of any format, there would have been no delay, for there are no such restrictions.
The fact that this match is going nowhere — only a day remains with Essex yet to bat, and the forecast suggests they will not be doing so — will be of little consolation.
Were this a crunch match at the end of the season, these two teams would have been needlessly denied potential bonus points. As it is, both Hampshire and Essex each claimed their first of the match.
It’s particularly disappointing because the match itself had been shaping up rather nicely, with Hampshire applying themselves with great determination and grit against an Essex attack sharper and more accurate than on day two.
Hashim Amla looked every bit the experienced Test batsman he is as he caressed his way to a half-century, a sumptuous late cut wide of slips the pick of his strokeplay.
Joining him was Adams, the Hampshire stalwart of 16 years, making full use of his wide open stance, a new adjustment for 2018 — the result of “tinkering in the winter,” he said, adding, “I wouldn’t tell my kids to bat like me.”
Adams resumed on 57 and added five before being handed a life as he pushed forward and edged straight to Alastair Cook at first slip, who put it down.
Both batsmen survived the morning but Amla edged behind ten balls after the extended lunch break with James Foster making no mistake, before Jamie Porter claimed his first wicket of the match when Adams was trapped in front for 87, two balls before the end of proceedings.
Even as the umpires sat in their dressing room during the second break, waiting every quarter of an hour until going to check the unchanged light once again, there were a handful of young children running around areas of the stands.
Forget simplified scoreboards and no extra balls for wides and no-balls. A new tournament with a never-before-seen format isn’t what’s needed to encourage parents and children to come to cricket matches.
Even if it is, and even if it is successful in bringing a new audience not just to short-form cricket but to all forms, situations like this will only drive them away.