Weathering the storm at Kingsmead Cricket Ground
Durban - The “rain in Spain stays (falls) mainly on the plain”, according to the musical, My Fair Lady.
Had Durban been the movie’s setting, chances are that Kingsmead might have featured in the lyrics.
Some cricket pundits, fans and players believe that whenever there’s an important match at the Hollywood Bets Kingsmead Cricket Ground, rain inevitably shows up and affects the outcome.
Uncanny is the fact that when clouds gather over Kingsmead and spit doom and gloom, it’s usually not to the home team’s advantage.
Friday’s T20 fixture at the aforementioned venue was a treat for fans who enjoyed exciting cricket on a typically balmy Durban evening.
However, that was not the case the week previously, in the One-Day International (ODI) between the same teams. That match was abandoned because of persistent rain.
The Proteas went into the ODI 1-0 up in the three-match series, and a win would have wrapped up the contest for the home side.
They eventually lost last Sunday’s third and final ODI and the series ended 1-1.
Other notable clashes that turned into damp squibs at Kingsmead includes the Gary Kirsten-led MSL side, Durban Heat, missing out on a play-off place because of the rain on December 10.
It was Durban Heat’s last round-robin fixture and victory against opponents Jozi Stars would have ensured their progress.
Kingsmead is also home to the Dolphins, a team that seldom features on local cricket’s honour roll.
However, in the 2017/18 season they reached the finals of the Momentum One Day Cup and had home-ground advantage against the Warriors team.
But incessant rain on the day of the final and the reserve day resulted in the teams sharing the trophy.
Of the rain-affected matches at Kingsmead, the Proteas’ day/night encounter with Sri Lanka in a 2003 Cricket World Cup quarter-final contest still rankled for many.
A drizzle prevented what seemed a very probable win for the Proteas that day. Even the projections coughed out through the Duckworth-Lewis (DWL) method in the event of rain affecting play was well within the Proteas’ grasp.
The DWL method is used to calculate targets in matches affected by the weather.
Painfully for their supporters, the Proteas misinterpreted the DWL readings and ended a run short of victory, before the game was bowled over by the rain. Had it not been for the inclement weather, the match could have ended differently for the team that was captained by Shaun Pollock.
“It was a horrible moment. It was very frustrating and we could do nothing about it,” lamented Pollock.
He revealed that back then, when the airport (Durban International) was on the South Coast, they were in contact with people there who would alert them to changes in the weather.
“There was no call. No reports of rain in Berea. It just rained over the city and the harbour, and lasted long enough for the game to be called off.”
Pollock agreed there was a notion that it rained when big cricket matches were played in Durban.
He also raised how the rain affected other major events in Durban, such as the 1995 Rugby World Cup semi-final between the Springboks and France and the Michael Jackson concert in 1997, both staged at Kings Park Stadium.
“If you go back to the 1990s, one of the best investments KZN could have made when we were readmitted into the international sporting fold was to have built a multipurpose venue with a roof.
Pollock added: “At the end of the day you want the game or event to happen. There is nothing worse when spectators attend and there is no show. In the modern era, there are all kinds of tools and apps available to work out when the rain is coming.
“In Durban it usually comes around sunset (5pm to 6pm).”
That is the reason he suggested more day games be played at Kingsmead as opposed to day/night games.
“Why not start games earlier, at least people will see some cricket.”
Pollock said it was equally frustrating for players who had to sit around for the entire day and when the afternoon/evening came around, so did the rain.
Lance Klusener, who was batting when the weather turned on the Proteas in the 2003 match at Kingsmead, agreed that rain often had a hand in Kingsmead outcomes.
“Therefore, more careful consideration of weather patterns was needed from the games administrators before fixtures were set.
Klusener acknowledged that the cricket season coincided with Durban’s summer months, which also made it hard for the Dolphins to win the local 4-day competition.
As a player and a coach, Klusener said he was involved in many rain affected matches at Kingsmead, including the “painful” 2003 game.
“You could see the rain coming from over the south stand, against the lights. The clouds were probably just over Kingsmead and the bay, the rest of Durban was bone dry,” said Klusener.
Brett Proctor, who is a former Kingsmead Stadium manager, was doing radio commentary on the 2003 World Cup match.
“The irony was that I was at the ground but my wife, who was in Durban North at time, said there was not a drop of rain.
“I don’t think it is a curse over the ground. I just believe the chances of rain at Kingsmead during matches are always good because it is being played in summer months. Those are our wettest months.”
Proctor said more day/night games get rained out than day games because Durban receives more evening rain.
“My gut feeling is that if we start earlier, we could get more cricket.”
Proctor said he concurred with the views raised by Pollock, Mike Haysman and David Lloyd during their recent stint of commentary.
“With so many entertainment options available to fans these days, they suggested that starting times of matches should be adjusted according to weather forecasts.
“Similar to how golf tee-off times were brought forward at times to avoid bad weather.
“In this modern era, we just publish the new starting times. Sure people might complain that they have to be at work, but at least we’ll have a game,” said Proctor.
Aslam Kota, a radio and TV commentator, said rain has been a factor in the number of matches he’s covered in the last 20 years.
“I think it might have something to do with global warming.”
He quipped: “The people in Durban need to learn the dance that keeps the rain away and bring out the sun on cricket days.”
Top Statistician On Kingsmead Fixtures:
Andrew Samson, internationally recognised cricket statistician and writer, takes a look at some Hollywood Bets Kingsmead numbers:
Looking specifically at One-Day Internationals (ODI), Durban has the joint fourth number of matches with a “no result” (ie some play but not enough to get a result) of any venue in the world:
Colombo Premadasa (Sri Lanka) 8; Colombo Sinhalese (Sri Lanka) SC 7; Sydney (Australia) 7; Durban 6 and Birmingham (England) 6.
But it has the highest percentage of such matches out of venues that have hosted 25 or more ODIs at 12.76% (6 out of 47). The Sinhalese Sports Club is second on that list at 11.66% (7 out of 60).
There does seem to be more rain on day/night games with 5 out of 36 day/night ODIs at Kingsmead having “no result” compared with 1 out of 11 day games.
In addition to the “no result” matches, Kingsmead has had a further five ODIs with a result but with a rain-revised target, including the famous Duckworth/Lewis tie against Sri Lanka, which knocked the Proteas out of the competition in the 2003 World Cup.
Only one of the 14 T20 Internationals at the ground has had a “no result” (India v Scotland in the 2007 World T20), when there was a toss but no play. So it counts as a game. The other 13 were all full games except for one that was reduced to seven overs a side match.
I have not looked at matches abandoned without a ball bowled as I don’t have adequate details of these. But Kingsmead has had some of those as well.
In the two seasons of MSL, to date, there have been 10 matches scheduled of which 3 were abandoned without a ball bowled. One was a no result, two had revised targets set and only four were complete games.
There have also been two Test matches significantly interrupted since 1992:
The one game was against England in 1995, where only 148 overs were bowled on the first three days and none on the last two.
It was mainly memorable to me for the English TV commentators spending most of the Test playing Balderdash in the media centre behind the commentary boxes.
New Zealand were the opponents in August 2016 when there was no play after the second day.
On that occasion, however, it didn’t actually rain on the last three days, but heavy overnight rain after the second day’s play meant that the newly re-laid outfield was unusable.
Dolphins Chief Executive says:
The Dolphins chief executive, Heinrich Strydom believes it was more of a perception that important Hollywood Bets Kingsmead matches get washed out because statistics tell another story.
“To add to the domestic scene’s perception, for example we would have a rain interrupted match and a washed out match at Kingsmead, then we would travel to Johannesburg and Pretoria and have washed out matches there.”
Strydom said It was extremely frustrating sharing the Momentum trophy in 2018 after an incredible campaign. “It was sad that a match that promised so much for our loyal local Dolphins fans could not take place. The irony is, if I remember correctly, that we had a club final at Kingsmead the day after the reserve day.”
On the issue of day or night games were better suited for Durban, Strydom said: “If you look at last season’s international fixtures we had a Tuesday day/night match (Sri Lank- 10 992 attendance) and a Sunday day match against Pakistan (12 017).
The fact that we had such a good crowd on a Tuesday probably defies all logic.”
Strydom thought it was a great idea to change fixture times based on weather predictions, provided the forecasts were accurate, bearing in mind that last Sunday’s “Pink Day” ODI would have been moved if forecasts were relied on.
“I do believe that our stringent rules regarding rain delays and the return to field protocol only when there is not a single drop falling should be looked at.
“I have also witnessed a few occasions where teams complete warm-ups and soccer matches in the same conditions that were deemed too dangerous.
International matches at Hollywoodbets Kingsmead
Summary since unification
One Day Internationals (ODIs)
41 out of 47 ODI’s had results – 87 percent
13 out 13 T20’s had results – 100 percent
25 Test matches of which 18 had a winning team, seven draws, due to various reasons)
Summary since 2015
International match interruptions
Tests: 4 (including one rain affected draw, ironically in August, one of the lowest rainfall months)
ODIs: 7 (all completed- 1 in August; 1 in October; 2 in January; 2 in February and 1 in march)
T20: 3 (all completed- 1 in August; 1 in January and 1 in March)
* Stats compiled by Dr. Gustav Venter, who is the Head: Centre for Sports Leadership at the Stellenbosch University and his partner, Shaun Rheeder.
Why makes it so...
According to Stacey Colborne, SA Weather Service forecaster:
Rainfall in KZN happens mainly in summer, but that doesn’t mean we don’t get rain in winter.
In summer, low pressure systems form near Botswana and Namibia. They are there for most of the season and are also known as surface troughs.
A surface trough sits more towards the western side of the country, which is why the Western Cape hardly gets rain in summer.
On the eastern side, there are often high-pressure systems which carry abundant moisture, resulting in storms and thunderstorms. These storms usually occur in the afternoon.
In winter, cold fronts bring rain, but during summer, low-pressure systems move along the coast and they are usually followed by high-pressure systems, which bring in rain.
That’s what makes Durban summers rainy.