Damp, soggy, muggy, call it what you may, but England in the first half of June seems to hardly be the time to play cricket, or at least a high profile tournament like the ICC Champions Trophy.
Rain once again played spoilsport as Australia narrowly missed out on what was victory in the bag against a Bangladesh outfit, that was thoroughly outplayed.
Chasing Bangladesh’s modest target, Australia ended up four overs short of making a result in the according to the Duckworth-Lewis system, despite being 44-runs ahead of the par-score.
The players were left twiddling their thumbs for at least three hours as officials and ground staff scurried around to get a game, even as the rain tumbled down. The game was eventually called off, denying Australia a win and keeping Bangladesh’s hopes of progressing in the tournament alive.
This was Australia’s second straight washout of the tournament that has been marred by rain in three of the five games played so far. Forecast for the rest of the week is not very positive either.
But, there is hardly any solution. England in the first half of June is almost never dry. In 2013, the Champions Trophy, which was also held in England at almost the same juncture in the calendar, saw seven games being affected by rain.
One would have expected the ICC to learn from the experience, but that has not been the case. The experience has only raised questions over the way the tournament was scheduled and even the use of the highly controversial Duckworth-Lewis system that once again proved useless in a game that had a clear winner well before rain had a final say.
The convoluted DLS
A win for Australia was all but certain. Chasing Bangladesh’s target of 182, Australia trudged of the field on 83/1 in 16 overs. A win at the stage was a mere formality, with their batsmen dominating the opposition.
According to the rules, a result in a rain-affected game is only possible if the team batting second has played at least 20 overs.
Unfortunately for Australia, they ended up four overs short. However, such was their dominance in the game, that they would have gone onto win the game even without scoring a single had the four overs been bowled.
Ironically, it was Australia who gained from ICC’s stringent adherence to protocol in their previous game, where they were saved from imminent defeat as the rains came tumbling down. But, despite that fact, they would be mighty upset at the way things transpired on Monday, where a result was deemed impossible even with the lop-sided equation on hand.
The two-time champions will now have to beat hosts England in a make or break game in Birmingham on June 10 to qualify for the semi-finals.
Bilateral series take precedence
It is a shame that rain has become such a major talking point of a high-profile tournament like the Champions Trophy.
Rain took centrestage on a day that saw Tamim Iqbal come within touching distance of completing back to back hundreds, even as Australia pacer Mitchell Starc announced his return to form with an incredible triple-wicket maiden, while David Warner broke a 27-year-old record to become the fastest Australian cricketer to reach 4000 ODI runs.
It has become increasingly clear that the ICC tournament is hardly a priority for any host nation. England will go on to play host to two cricket nations in the summer to follow, with a full T20 and Test series against South Africa to begin immediately after the Champions Trophy followed by a visit by the West Indies.
Compared to a tournament like the Champions Trophy, a home series garners more interest is hardly a secret. The financial incentives involved for a bilateral series appears to be higher for cricket boards where focus on their team is higher and the lack of footfall for neutral games is avoided.
The worry, however, is that a low-key event could further embolden critics of the tournament to re-initiate calls for its disbandment.
A few adjustments to the schedule could have salvaged a better start to the multi-nation tournament, which has so far failed to light up, with weather quite literally playing the dampner.
ICC’s lack of flexibility during a rain-affected day is also quite comical, with mandatory lunch and drinks breaks causing at times a delay, when the arrival of rain is almost a certainty.
Alas, there is nothing that can be done, but to resign to the fact that cricket in England in the first of June is hardly the brightest of ideas.