Old Trafford wore a soggy look at 10am on Friday. Overhead, it was grey. It wasn’t cold, but there was a light shower on.
Fifteen minutes later, it was pouring. The pitch had been secured by the hover cover, while the rest of the square was covered by sheets. More sheets covered the outfield in front of the B and D stands. In one corner, in front of the B stand, there was also a mobile lighting rig, generally used to help grow and maintain a good grass cover when natural light is in short supply, typically for winter sports.
These were ominous portents 48 hours before the contest that is being promoted as one that one that will bring India and Pakistan to a standstill. It might just too.
Already, both teams have endured the frustration of missing out on a full game – and full points – because of the weather. For Pakistan, Sunday’s match will be their fifth. For India, it’s the fourth. Very middle of the tournament. Another washout can’t help.
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As the shower in Manchester picked up in intensity, members of the groundstaff would likely have grown anxious, too. They had already walked up a few times to an area on the ground where the tournament sponsors’ logos need to embossed on the turf. This part, to the side of the pitch, outside the square, was exposed to the rain. The logo-painting can only happen once the turf dries.
But by 10.45am, the rain had receded. With every ticking minute, it became brighter. The Pakistan squad, which had arrived by then, went to the indoor training centre to practice. The Indians hadn’t left Nottingham yet. The groundstaff rolled their sleeves up and got to work.
Incidentally, Old Trafford has not hosted a match since May 22, when Lancashire beat Worcestershire in a County Championship Division Two match. More recently, for the past week, it has rained every day, forcing the pitch to stay under covers for the most part. The sighter of the pitch showed no grass, although historical trend suggests swing bowlers could be in business.
On to Sunday then, and the forecast is quite positive, at least till late afternoon when light showers are expected. Everyone, including the ICC and their outgoing chief executive David Richardson, who was at the ground, will have their fingers crossed on that.
The World’s Greatest Cricket Celebration – that’s the legend emblazoned atop the Brian Statham End. With an unprecedented four washouts in the tournament so far, and travelling fans stressed about future games and refunds, the tournament organisers are likely to be a worried lot. The ICC has blamed the “extremely unseasonal weather” for their woes. They now desperately need Sunday to be dry enough to host a match, arguably the biggest of the competition.