Cricket review to answer questions about McLean Park future

By Victoria White

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The McLean Park grounds were checked throughout the afternoon, before play was finally abandoned nearly five hours after the match's scheduled start. PHOTO/FILE
The McLean Park grounds were checked throughout the afternoon, before play was finally abandoned nearly five hours after the match's scheduled start. PHOTO/FILE

It was meant to be an afternoon of cricket, where fans at McLean Park, and tuning in elsewhere could watch the Black Caps could take another step toward regaining the Chapell-Hadlee trophy.

Instead last week's abandonment left disgruntled fans, and questions about the future of the Napier City Council-owned venue.

An independent review is underway into what caused last week's second Chappell-Hadlee one-day international between the Black Caps and Australia to be abandoned.

Despite rain earlier that day, on February 2 fans flooded into McLean Park and viewers tuned in for the match's 2pm start. But fans were left waiting for over four hours before the game was called off at 6.46pm - five hours after the last significant rain fell on the ground.

Immediately after the match was abandoned, the Napier City Council announced there would be an independent review, conducted in conjunction with New Zealand Cricket.

Earlier this week both Napier mayor Bill Dalton and council chief executive Wayne Jack declined to comment until this review had been completed.

On match-day -February 2- more rain had fallen on Napier than for the entire month of January, when the city only received 5.4ml, Metservice reported.

Last Wednesday around 5.8ml of rain fell between about 8.30am and 2pm - when the match was scheduled to start.

Although the rainfall was significant after a period of dry conditions, questions have been raised about the Napier City Council-owned facility's ability to drain water. The council website states the "park drains quickly", and in 2014 the venue's drainage system received an upgrade.

However this match was the third to be abandoned since December 2013 due to weather, leading to increasing use of local proverbs about scheduling cricket matches if rain was needed.

The review began earlier this week, when "independent assessors" spent Wednesday at McLean Park.

A New Zealand Cricket (NZC) spokesman said the scope of the review mostly involved the events and issues leading up to the abandonment on February 2. He added relevant NZC personnel would be consulted, as needed.

A council spokeswoman said the assessors were at McLean Park to "gain a deeper understanding of any current and potentially ongoing issues at the park".

No comment was forthcoming on what was being assessed in the review, what these "potential ongoing issues" were, or which organisation the independent assessors were from.

She did say council were looking forward to discussing the findings of the review next week with NZ Cricket and establishing a way forward.

This was reiterated by the NZC spokesman, who said they hoped to have completed the review of the abandoned game, and started discussions on possible outcomes by early next week.

Both the council and NZC have remained tight-lipped about any possible outcomes of the review, and what this could mean for McLean Park's status as an international cricket ground.

The site is known as having one of the best wickets in New Zealand, however three of the last eight ODI's held at the venue have been abandoned.

Mr Jack did comment to point out that after the cancelled ODI against the West Indies in 2013, "the drainage was fixed".

The council spokeswoman said the upgrades in early 2014 included slit drains installed in front of the Harris Stand to enable more efficient discharge of water from the playing surface.

The abandonment of an ODI against Pakistan last year was due to "a rain-out, there was flooding across the city", Mr Jack said.

The NZC spokesman did not answer questions about whether the organisation felt McLean Park was up to standard for an international cricket ground.

He said the review would be assessing and managing the risks involved in staging the upcoming 4th ODI against South Africa at the same venue.

When asked if there was a possibility this match could be moved from McLean park if the review found shortfalls, the spokesman said "it would be unwise to speculate on any likely outcomes until the review is completed".

Until the review was complete, the council spokeswoman said they were "not prepared to guess at the outcome, or of any next steps, at this point."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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