PIETERMARITZBURG – There was not a ball bowled in Pietermaritzburg on day four of the Sunfoil Series encounter between the Dolphins and the Lions. It is not the first time, and it will not be the last time it happens, either.
Cricket in Maritzburg – and even Durban, for that matter – in October, is bound to run into Mother Nature’s wrath.
The sun sets sooner than on the highveld, meaning bad light will eat at least two hours’ of total play out of the match.
It is a problem that has hamstrung matches in Maritzburg forever, and it is a wonder that a more practical solution hasn’t been explored.
The Dolphins surely wouldn’t mind playing the bulk of their early fixtures away, if only to ensure they spend more time on the field than in the sheds, playing cards and wasting data. Last week, against the Knights, they lost over a day and a half to inclement weather.
This week, against the Lions, only 178.1 overs – out of a maximum of 416 – were bowled, meaning the Dolphins have spent as many days playing cricket as they have spent killing time and cursing their luck for being coastal.
And, if the light plays along and the sun shines, you can be almost sure there will be showers later. In Maritzburg, on a Sunday that been sweltering for much of the afternoon, a blitzkrieg of a hailstorm brought in the evening.
The sodden outfield was again miraculously mopped up by the diligent ground staff, but there were still patches of concern around the bowlers’ run-ups. The only reason to even play on day four was to get the Dolphins’ first innings to 100 overs, and garner bonus points in the process.
But it was clear that, given an expectation of showers around 2pm, the window of opportunity was closing in rapidly on proceedings. Realistically, the match officials could have called it all off before breakfast, given the severity of the storm on the previous evening.
But, all protocols were mind-numbingly observed, considerable small-talk initiated until lunch was nibbled and the grey blanket returned to hover over the Oval again.
It is a terrific pity, but this match and its fleeting highlights will be confined to the burgeoning file of nothing fixtures early in the summer in Maritzburg.
Rassie van der Dussen was handed the man of the match, but it may as well have been the caterers and the ground staff, who did more than anyone else involved in the contest.
Just after midday, both teams wearily shook hands, packed bags and drove to Durban.
The Lions had an afternoon flight, and the Dolphins have a week back home, before the next round of fixtures.
And where will they be playing next week?
Maritzburg, for a change.
* Meanwhile, heavy rain and a wet outfield meant that no play was possible on the final day of the Sunfoil Series clash between the Cape Cobras and the Knights at the Recreation Ground in Oudtshoorn on Monday.
The inclement weather was around well before the start of day four, leaving umpires Shaun George and Arno Jacobs little choice in their decision.
Almost the entire final session was lost on day three when the visitors had just begun their second innings and reached 3/0, a lead of 45.
The defending champions had made 489/5 declared, with the hosts replying with 447 all out.
The fourth round of matches begins next Monday, October 16, with the Dolphins hosting the Titans at the Oval ground in Pietermaritzburg, the Lions face the Knights at Senwes Park in Potchefstroom, while the Cape Cobras will take on the Warriors at Newlands.