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Cricket: Farcical scenes as Black Caps v Australia called off

A disappointed crowd at Mclean Park as the weather stymied any chance of play. Picture / Duncan Brown
A disappointed crowd at Mclean Park as the weather stymied any chance of play. Picture / Duncan Brown

Farcical scenes pervaded McLean Park as the crowd was prevented from seeing the second Chappell-Hadlee match due to the appalling outfield drainage.

Gumboots should have been de rigueur.

It made a grim Hawke's Bay day for fans, ratepayers or both, as the match was called off at 6.46pm.

Failing to host a game after the rain stopped at 1.45pm means questions must be asked about the ground's ability to earn future international fixtures.

Alternatively, an expensive re-lay of turf looks required as a catalyst for change. Areas of recidivist squelch let the park down, particularly in front of the main stands.

The Napier City Council owns the venue. Chief executive Wayne Jack said he was keen for an independent review to start as soon as possible.

"We are classing the review as urgent, and will be speaking with New Zealand Cricket first thing tomorrow.

Together we will agree on the person we want to use and it will be a joint effort."

Three out of the last eight ODIs have been abandoned at McLean Park, dating back to December 2013.

No significant drainage has been done since the abandonment of the New Zealand-Pakistan match on January 28, 2016.

NZC chief operating officer Anthony Crummy said the match officials needed a certain amount of time to work out if the ground was suitable for play.

"We communicated that to the crowd and that's all we can do. All general admission ticket holders will get a 100 percent refund."

The priority now is to get the ground ready for the ODI against South Africa on March 1.

A tractor roved the outfield sloshing water into the super sopper across the afternoon.

Disgruntlement built steadily among patrons to a point which could not be appeased by beer, hot dogs of pottles of chips.

The corresponding fixture last year required five umpire inspections before getting abandoned at 6.22pm.

Fans are becoming accustomed to matches being disrupted in the region and the local proverb "if you want to be break a drought, schedule a cricket match" gained further traction.

The meticulous efforts from groundsman Phil Stoyanoff to get the pitch into mint condition were let down by puggy soil.

New Zealand coach Mike Hesson said it was "blatantly obvious" that the ground was unfit for play.

"We are annoyed and frustrated. The pitch looked exceptional.

"The umpires are the sole judges... but both players and management were fully supportive of the decision.

Hesson said the main problems occurred during the warm-ups.

"As we warmed up you'd throw balls and the water would spray. Then more water came to the surface, so it got worse rather than better which was unexpected.

"We were training on Nelson Park 100m away and the ground was bone dry four hours ago [from 7pm], and the outfield here is not."

Australian captain Aaron Finch said key fielding positions for lateral movement were the worst affected.

"Backward point, cover, square leg. Particularly in and around the ring it was soggy and slippery.

"We realised around 4pm that it was unsafe, and we threw the decision over to the umpires.

"I don't think the super-sopper did a hell of a lot to be honest. For a place that hasn't had rain for 11 weeks, it was extraordinary."








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