'Should be banned': Cricket fans left fuming over Ashes 'joke'

Sam Goodwin
Sports Editor

Cricket fans are fuming again after the horrible English weather wreaked havoc on the opening day of the fourth Ashes Test.

A city synonymous with football, music and wet weather, Manchester didn't disappoint with the latter on a bizarre opening day at Old Trafford.

Starting a Test match in September is something that's never happened in this part of the world before but, due to the Cricket World Cup the Ashes series has been pushed back to finish deep into the English autumn.

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Locals say if it's not raining in Manchester, it will be soon, so it was to no-one's surprise that dark clouds and light drizzle greeted the players when they arrived at the ground.

Conditions were dry when Tim Paine won the toss and elected to bat on a belting-looking pitch.

Travis Head and Steve Smith walk from the ground as rain stops play. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

However, rain never seemed far away and play was delayed for two hours after lunch as the 12-strong ground staff battled to keep the covers on the square.

When play did finally resume it was stopped once again, this time due to a rogue chip packet - much to the chagrin of Stuart Broad - who was halted twice in his run-up by a distracted Marnus Labuschagne.

Bails then fell foul to the howling wind after umpires Kumar Dharmasena and Marais Erasmus admitted defeat in their numerous efforts to keep them on top of the stumps

This brought fourth umpire Rob Bailey onto the field, but not with heavier bails as expected but a replacement cap for the avuncular Erasmus who evidently had no interest in chasing his white floppy number across the square.

Uncovered stumps were then in play for 15 minutes while new bails were being hastily made courtesy of a hammer and four nails.

Not ideal conditions for cricket. (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Labuschagne laments ‘frustrating’ farce

"It was frustrating for everyone, I pulled away because I thought the bails had come off," Labuschagne said of his cross words with Broad.

"Then the chips packets came on. It was frustrating for the game in general. When they put the bails on you could see the stumps shake it was just a matter of time until they came off.

"I have never played without bails before so it was a bit different, but overall it was pretty tough conditions for bowling."

The first three Tests were also affected by rain at various stages, with the second finishing in a draw because of the adverse weather.

The preceding World Cup was also marred by the big wet, with an unprecedented number of games being abandoned without a ball being bowled.

As more rain tumbled down on Wednesday, fans flocked to social media to vent.

Some went as far as saying England should be banned from hosting major cricket events - whether they were joking or not wasn’t clear.

Smith bats on and on

Battling against the wind the English attack then found themselves back in familiar territory - trying desperately to find a way to get out Steve Smith.

Smith, unbeaten on 60 when play was abandoned for the day, appeared to be the only player happy to be outside as he chalked up his fourth successive half-century, showing no effects of the concussion that ruled him out of the Headingley Test.

It's often been said when in the groove, the former Test skipper sees cricket balls like the beach variety, something he literally put into practice when a large multi-coloured sphere - which almost certainly has never seen sand or blue seas - found its way onto the ground.

Erasmus, perhaps still digesting lunch again showed no desire to stop its progress as it blew towards the world's No.1 batsman who promptly middled it to the rope like it was the most normal thing in the world - much to the delight of the crowd.

And just like that, after four months of intense booing from English crowds Smith finally received a cheer.

with AAP