In the wake of sun stopping play at Napier, in this two-part series Arunabha Sengupta recounts unusual interruptions to have occurred in the history of the game. In this episode he deals with the incidents when games were interrupted by the conspiracies and collusions of man and beast.
In Part 1 we covered the unusual interruptions to cricket matches due to the whims of nature. We came across the sun (not considering the publication), the snow, fog, heat, cold, lightning, earthquake …
But, sometimes, with nature looking on in all benevolence, games have been interrupted due to other reasons.
This is a morose reason, but nevertheless needs to be dealt with.
India’s first ever Test win was achieved in 1951-52 at Chepauk. It is debatable whether the death had something to do with the result, but there was indeed some rescheduling. At the end of Day One, with England on 224 for 5, the news reached the shores that King George VI had succumbed to coronary thrombosis. The following day was declared a rest day.
The Indians had not only an international match but an entire tour cut short when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated in 1984-85. At Sialkot, Mohinder Amarnath was leading India for the only time in his career and buoyed by a rollicking unbeaten 94 by Dilip Vengsarkar India had posted 210 in 40 overs. The news came in during the break that the Prime Minister had been killed. A tearful Raj Singh Dungarpur, manager of the Indian side, announced that the match would have to be abandoned, and, as the nation went into mourning, so was the tour.
When Phillip Hughes tragically perished after being hit on the back of his head by a bouncer, a sombre cloud covered the cricket world for days. As the news was made known, the second day’s play of the ongoing Test match between Pakistan and New Zealand was called off. Later, however, an additional day was added.
But, play was once abandoned due to the death of a lady who was neither a cricketer, not the head of a state, nor a member of the royalty. However, without a doubt her contribution to cricket was more significant than most.
Martha Grace was just not the mother of William Gilbert, she had given birth to a platoon of First-Class cricketers. Besides, the progress of WG into the champion of his day had much to do with the close attention she paid to nurturing her son’s talent. Hence, when the telegram bearing the news of her death reached Old Trafford on Day Two of the county game, Lancashire captain Monkey Hornby immediately offered to call the match off so that WG and EM could make their way back to Bristol.
In 2007, again at Old Trafford, Lancashire-Kent game was interrupted when a pot of gravy was left unattended in the pavilion and was burnt to ashes. It resulted in severe smoke that set off the fire alarm and had fire engines rushing to the premises. However, the resulting delay was not enough to save Kent from the beguiling magic of Muttiah Muralitharan.
A more palatable delay due to food did precede the Old Trafford incident by more than a decade. In 1994-95, the Castle Cup match between Boland and Border was held up because , as Wisden reported, ‘Fried calamari stopped play’. When Daryll Cullinan threw the kitchen sink at one from Roger Telemachus, sending it soaring into the stands, the ball landed in a pan of fried calamari. Ten minutes were lost as the ball cooled down.
Food in its pre-cooked form also played a role in interrupting the course of play once. At Dunedin, in 1906-07, the match between Otago and MCC was held up when the ball thumped by Charles Edmond De Trafford landed in a neighbouring cabbage patch and had to be industriously hunted out.
And then there was the unusual incident in Lyallpur, 1969, when the normally charming England skipper Colin Cowdrey refused to start their match against Central Zone without being served tea. The Englishmen were harried with some pathetic scheduling and mismanagement, and Cowdrey’s insistence on that day resulted in a delay of almost two hours.
Of course, food has affected cricket in not very savoury modes as well, bringing emergency stoppages into opertaion.
It first happened in a Test match during the India vs West Indies encounter, Kolkata, 1948-49. Play was held up for about 15 minutes on the third day of the Test as umpire AR Joshi and some of the cricketers battled upset stomachs after indulging in fried prawns on the previous evening.
The West Indians hardly had anything to complain in the summer of 1988, the summer of four English captains. However, at Headingley, after bowling four balls at Graham Gooch, Curtly Ambrose did beckon umpire Dickie Bird to show him that his approach to the wicket was getting increasingly splashy. Water was oozing out, from what was later revealed to be a burst drain. Copious quantities of sawdust were used to resume play.
This was a Test match, but such irritating mishaps of pipes had taken place earlier in matches of relatively lesser importance. In 1954, the match between Sussex and Middlessex at Hove was held up prior to the start of the second Middlesex innings because an iron pipe had to be dug out of the pitch. How it got there is still a mystery.
25 years later, the match between Worcestershire and Somerset at New Road was delayed by an hour and a half because the handle of the heavy roller as buried into the pitch. A new pitch had to be cut two yards away. Perhaps the wait infuriated Joel Garner who claimed 6 for 80 as Worcestershire batted.
1979, in fact, seemed to be a season of rolling mishaps. At Blackpool, the Nottinghamshire-Lancashire game was interrupted when the pitch had to be repaired after a stray ball had been rolled into the surface.
Yes, pitches have been dug up to stop play … mainly by protesters. But none of these digs resulted in the discovery of oil. However, the final day of the Ashes thriller at Leeds in 1975 was abandoned because vandals protesting the arrest of a minicab driver on grounds of robbery had dug up the pitch and poured oil in the holes.
Facing Derek Underwood on a fusarium infected pitch three years earlier was fresh in the memory of Aussie skipper Ian Chappell. Hence squaring up against him on an oily surface with holes was not exactly a task he looked at with anticipation. So, when England captain Tony Greig offered to call the Test off, he agreed eagerly enough.
THREAT OF BOMBS
The Army vs RAF match at Lord’s during the Second World War saw the unusual sight of players and spectators diving for cover on the ground. A German aircraft was heard hovering in the proximity of the venue, and, according to Wisden, landed in Regent’s Park. According to Andrew Ward, however, it nosedived at Albert Road, 200 yards from Lord’s.
Of course, there was yet another bomb scare in peacetime as well, with Lord’s being partially evacuated during the 1973 Test against West Indies.
Not quite a threat of bombs, but unnerving nonetheless, was the suspension of the Glamorgan versus Northamptonshire match at Cardiff due to a 21-gun salute on the Queen Mother’s birthday.
A village green match at Stroud was halted for a while as players waited for a train to resume its journey after having stopped behind the bowler’s arm.
But it was hardly as dramatic as the 1892 match at Scarborough between Yorkshire and the MCC which was disturbed because of a horse and a cart suddenly entering the arena and careering wildly across the pitch.
Flying aircrafts caused a stoppage of play on the first day of the test between South Africa vs England, Johannesburg, 1927-28.
That is a tradition that has not died yet. As late as in November 2017, a car drove into the Air Force Ground, Palam, during the Ranji Trophy encounter between Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, leaving seasoned campaigners like Gautam Gambhir and Ishant Sharma open-mouthed.
However, if we digress into the field of slightly less conventional modes of transport, we have to go back to Trent Bridge, 1974, when Nottinghamshire took on the visiting Indians. The action was held up when a couple of amateur parachutists strayed off course and landed inside the ground, somewhere in the fine leg region.
There have been plenty of instances of animals stopping play right from the nascent days of cricket.
Plenty of dogs have happily entered the playing area, many of them oblivious to the gravity of the event in progress, some eager to join in the chase for the ball. It happened frequently in the sub-continent in the older days, and continues somewhat less frequently till today. A well-meaning New Zealand cricketer was even bitten by an unwilling canine as he attempted to carry it away from the field of play.
But India and Sri Lanka are not the only offenders. During the IPL 2009 a rather large black sheepdog in a red collar strayed into the ground during the Mumbai Indians – Chennai Super Kings game.
Also, in 1993, unimpressed by the importance of The Ashes, a mutt of mixed pedigree strolled nonchalantly into Trent Bridge while Merv Hughes prepared to bowl to Mark Lathwell. The big, lumbering fast bowler had to go down on his knees to plead for the pooch to leave. It did the magic, and a brave Michael Slater eventually carried it away. It was supposedly adopted by one of the spectators, and christened ‘Merv’.
And then there was the famous incident of Richard Blakey sweeping Saqlain Mushtaq for four at the Guildford Cricket Ground during the Surrey-Yorkshire engagement, and the ball disappearing under the pressmen’s tent beyond fine-leg, from whence it came back with unusual signs of tampering. The ball had to be changed, and inquiries revealed that Bumper the lab was the offender. Geoffrey Dean of The Times had taken him along to enjoy the action and the appearance of a red ball had delighted him no end.
But, dogs, prolific as they are in the history of cricketing interruptions, are not the only members of the animal kingdom with the claim to this sort of fame.
A flight of swallows had held up the play during the Gloucestershire vs Notts encounter at Trent Bridge in 1875.
A year and a half later James Lillywhite’s men had toured Australia and New Zealand, thereby playing the first ever Test matches. During their match against Goulburn XXII at the Goulburn Sports Ground, the pitch was invaded by six hares and two kangaroos.
Bees have been at it for quite some time. In 1887, they had the Surrey and Lancashire players scurrying for cover at Old Trafford. They kept it up down the years, with an Oxford University-Worcestershire match being forced to stop till a beekeeper was found.
Eventually, this species of hardworking insects made it to the highest level of the game, holding up the England-West Indies Test match at Trent Bridge in 1976. That same Test was also interrupted by a flock of obstinate pigeons who alighted on the pitch and refused to budge in spite of the fastest bowling on offer.
The bee species did not prove to be a one-Test wonder either. They returned in full force to hold up play on at least three more occasions:
India vs Pakistan, Bangalore, 1979-80; Sri Lanka vs England, Kandy, 2007-08; India vs England, Delhi, 2007-08.
The bees kept up their agitation in First-Class matches as well, such as when Gloucester met Glamorgan at Bristol in 1979 and also when South Australia played West Indies at Adelaide in 1983-84.
Pigeons were also quite persevering in their continued presence at the wicket during the Edgbaston thriller between India and England last summer, and Keaton Jennings perhaps suffered a lapse in concentration in trying to shoo one of them away.
That was not the first time the West Indians had been on the receiving end of insects Down Under. When they had been in Australia in 1952-53, locusts had invaded the ground in a match and the balls pitching on them had tended to skid, prompting a half-hour hold up in the game.
Seagulls are omnipresent in Australia but have the good sense to hardly ever interrupt the game. An exception occurred when one was caught unawares and was killed by a Kapil Dev drive at Adelaide in 1985-86.
The 1950s was particularly interesting in the frequency and variety of creatures who appeared in the arena.
When the touring MCC played Maharashtra in 1951-52, a monkey named Jacko insisted on fielding at mid-wicket. When the English cricketers toured 61 years down the line, the exchanges were renewed, with the match against Haryana at Motera being interrupted by another of the species.
In 1957 the match between Gloucestershire and Derbyshire at Gloucester was held up when a hedgehog invaded the pitch and refused to budge. Ultimately the Derbyshire stumper George Dawkes was asked to put those keeping gloves in action and carry it away.
The same year a pet mouse was almost trampled on by Colin Cowdrey at Canterbury during Kent’s game against Hampshire, but eventually, the schoolboy owner managed to capture it in his cap.
A slightly more annoying rat invasion took place at Edgbaston when England played Pakistan in 1962.
Sheep have had historic importance in the game, often being used to smoothen outfields in the late nineteenth century. But on at least one occasion, during the Ebbw Vale match between Gloucestershire and Glamorgan, a flock rushed in to bring the game to a halt. After they had been driven away, significant time was lost in clearing the droppings.
Then we come to pigs, with their distinguished history of cricketing fiascos. It started way back in 1899 when a Worcestershire-Derbyshire match was interrupted with a hare running across the Worcester ground diligently pursued by a pig. The porcine invader, in this case, seemed to have an excellent sense of authority and made straight for the umpire.
Years later, in 1982-83, a pig was inserted into the Gabba by an enterprising spectator during a One Day International. It had BEEFY and EDDIE written on its two flanks, hinting at the rather generous proportions of Ian Botham and Eddie Hemmings.
A year before that, a number of ducks had stopped play between West Indies and Australia at the MCG.
In 1993-94, the Hero Cup semi-final between India and South Africa saw the appearance of a rodent of the mongoose family into the famous premises of Eden Gardens. While it did not actually hold up play, Ajay Jadeja did complain to the umpire about its presence at cover. When the animal returned to visit the ground during the second semi-final between West Indies and Sri Lanka, it was greeted to a standing ovation.
In this century too, an iguana caused an interruption in Colombo in the match between Young England and Sri Lankan Colts. And in 2003, four matches in Queensland were stopped because of toads.
There have been plenty of animal involvements in minor cricket. Some of the more famous are listed here.
A ball hit for a four in the match between Kentisbare and Exmouth was promptly gobbled up by a cow loitering outside the boundary. Several camels, escaped from a Cornish circus, once marauded across the field of action while Launceston Cricket Club played the Old Stuttonians.
And of course, when the Adélie penguins stopped a game of the Captain Scott’s XI, the event lent itself to the title of the excellent book by Harry Thompson.
A FEW GOOD MEN
I decided to ignore the special species of animals who top the list in causing interruptions to cricket matches, namely mankind. The instances are too numerous, and involve either ugly rioting or PG-rated nudity. They demand a separate article in their own right. There have been way too many incidents of setting stands on fire, bottle showers, pitch invasions, streakers, drunks and protesters to list as a sub-section.
However, there are a few incidents which stand out … and involves players, umpires and occasionally journalists and broadcasters.
Let us start with Dickie Bird again. During the Test match at Old Trafford in 1974 he was asked by Sunil Gavaskar to get out his scissors and trim some of the hair of the opening batsman. As the umpire performed this piece of tonsorial artistry, play was held up for a while.
In 1984, the zeal of a journalist reporting the Warwickshire-Lancashire game at Nuneaton got on the nerves of Lanacashire captain John Abrahams. It may be that Abrahams was concentrating extra hard … after all, he scored a career-best 201 not out in that innings. However, he did ask the persevering scribe to stop using the distractingly noisy typewriter.
At The Oval in 1960, with nothing happening in the England-South Africa Test, Brian Johnston sent in a suggestively lewd poster in an envelope to the Springbok spearhead Neil Adcock. When Adcock finally saw the pornographic picture, he was in splits and his teammates gathered around him to share the laughs. Soon the batsmen and the umpires joined in, and the play was held up with the spectators wondering what it was all about.
And then there are batsmen who hit hard, and balls disappear in the process. For example, Viv Richards asking Greg Thomas to find the red, round thing after dispatching it into the river at Taunton. But, none showed the efficiency of RG Broadbent of Worcestershire who, in 1955, hit the first two balls of a Robin Marlar over out of the Hove ground. Both the balls were lost and Marlar had to run in with three different balls for his first three deliveries of that over.