Almanac Cricket – Abandoned: not as rare as you think

“The Cricketer”
by Kate Birrell


So far in the Australian 2019-2020 CE summer we’ve seen some cricket matches abandoned. It is not a common occurrence for this to happen, though nor is it unique. The reasons can fluctuate, including the climatic conditions, the quality of the pitch, even off field events.


There was the Sheffield Shield clash at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, (MCG) between Western Australia and Victoria. After a few Western Australian batsmen, including Shaun Marsh and Marcus Stoinis, were struck by balls lifting sharply, play was stopped on the opening day with Western Australia on 3-89.  Attempts were made to start play again on the second day but the pitch was not deemed playable.  There was also the Big Bash League match involving the Sydney Strikers and Adelaide Thunder in Canberra called off with heavy smoke haze blanketing the ground. With limited visibility and respiratory concerns, the match was stopped. After 4.2 overs the Thunder were 1-40 chasing 162 when the match was called off. There was also a Sheffield Shield match involving New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland where the match was played to its end despite severe smoke haze engulfing the ground on the final day. (Who said climate change is crap ?!?)


As I mentioned, the abandonment of cricket matches is not an everyday event with it happening due to unusual events. One of the sadder cases occurred in Sydney not too long ago. There was the tragic case of Phillip Hughes’ death in November 2014.  In the NSW v South Australia Sheffield Shield match Hughes, opening for the visitors, had reached 63 before he was struck in the neck by a short-pitched ball. South Australia was 2-136 but no further play took place as Hughes was transported to hospital in a critical condition. Sadly, he died a few days later.


Now I’ll touch on some cases where Test matches were abandoned. I’m aware of the semiology of ‘abandoned’ v ‘cancelled’, however if a match is meant to take place during a certain time frame and it doesn’t happen, or it fails to run its duration, it all means the same thing. Anyhow, let’s take a little trip down memory lane.


In 1968-69, England’s three Test tour of Pakistan ended up with the final Test in Karachi being abandoned. The first two Tests had already seen controversy with riots, protests, and dubious home town selections. This third Test match was called off shortly before lunch on the third day due to riots. The riots were in response to various factors, including calls for a general strike over the political situation, the removal of Hanif Mohammed the local captain, compounded with anti–English sentiment running high. Where better to riot than at a cricket ground during a test match?! England were 7- 502 with the portly Colin Milburn blasting 139, but poor Alan Knott was stranded on 96 when the match could not continue.


In the 1970-71 Ashes series here in Australia, the first two Tests were drawn. The Third Test was due to start on December 31, 1970 in Melbourne but, due to three days consecutive days of constant summer rain, it was abandoned. However, with the Fourth Test not scheduled until January 9, 1971, how could this void be filled? Some wheeling and dealing behind the scenes by cricketing officialdom saw a major change of the tour schedule. Between these Tests, the tourists were meant to play Victoria in a four-day match, but it was felt more people would pay to see two international teams competing, whatever the structure of the match. Subsequently we had the first ever One Day International (ODI) held on January 5, 1971. In a match where both sides were accorded innings of 40, 8-ball overs, England batted first and were dismissed for 190. John Edrich top scored with 82. For the home side, Keith Stackpole took the bowling honours with 3-40 off his 8 overs. When Australia batted, Stackpole then managed a brisk 13 in an opening stand of 19 as Ian Chappell scored 60 to lead the home side to a 5-wicket victory. A crowd of 46,006 turned up. The ODI was born.


Who recalls the events at Sabina Park, Jamaica, in the West Indies back in early 1978 when the Australians were touring? This was at the height of the World Series Cricket (WSC) schism. The five-Test series saw the home side enter the fifth and final match leading 3-1. It’s worth recalling that the West Indies had won the first two Tests with a full-strength side. Then, following the second victory, controversy erupted with the WSC players left out of the side.  Australia won the Third Test but a final innings Australian collapse in the next match saw the home side claim the series. In the final Test at Jamaica, Australia batted first totalling 343. The home side replied with 280 before we scored 3-305 declared, setting a tally of 368 to win. Australia were well on top with the West Indies being 9-258 in their second innings before all hell broke loose.


On that final day, West Indian Vanburn Holder was given out, caught behind off Jim Higgs.  With the home side 9-258, defeat was imminent. Holder’s reaction at his dismissal caused a riot with rocks and bottles being thrown, gun shots being fired, a 44-gallon drum set alight, and the players scuppering from the field. Police fired tear gas but more items were thrown from the crowd. Oh, by the by, the man due to replace Vanburn Holder at the crease, Raphick Jumaden, never got to bat, the Test finishing in a draw. It’s worth noting that prior to play commencing, there were concerns raised about the ‘suspect’ bowling action of a few Australians, with an intimation they would be called for throwing.  In the preceding tour match Australia played against Jamaica, umpire Douglas Sang Hue called Bruce Yardley for throwing. Subsequently, Sang Hue was left out of the Test match due to objections the Australian raised. The fact that he was a Jamaican umpire left out of a match in Jamaica was probably a factor in the riot.


Returning to Sabina Park, Jamaica, we saw their First Test of the 1997-98 series against England abandoned. On a pitch that made the recent MCG pitch look like the Nullarbor, England were 3-17. In just over an hour’s play, the English physiotherapist made six appearances to spray players’ arms and fingers, to dull the pain from being hit. Following the third over, the umpires advised match referee Barry Jarman on their concerns, however play continued a bit longer before it was deemed unsafe to play anymore.


We saw the third New Zealand V Bangladesh Test scheduled for Christchurch in March 2019 abandoned following the horrendous massacre of 51 Muslims praying at mosques in that city. In Bangladesh, around 90% of its population of 167 million follow the Muslim faith. Considering the tragedy in Christchurch, it was highly likely the match would not take place. It didn’t, as the Bangladeshi team promptly flew home, leaving behind the sadness of Christchurch, with the scheduled Test not happening.


Possibly my ‘favourite’ abandoned Test goes back well before I was born, in the era of timeless Tests. The 1938 -39 England tour of South Africa saw the visitors going in to the final Test of a five-match series 1-0 up. The match at Kingsmead, Durban, saw the home side bat first totalling 530. For the visitors, debutant Reg Perks claimed 5-100. In reply England knocked up 316. The home side were intent on grinding the visitors into the ground, following up with 481, including captain Alan Melville scoring 103 with three colleagues passing the half century mark.  England then required a staggering 705 for victory. Amazingly, they almost pulled it off, their final innings drawing to a close with them on 5-654!!! Bill Edrich led the way with 219 , two team-mates passed 100, and England did not lose their fourth wicket until they were on 611.


This match was finally curtailed as the English team had to catch their boat, the Athlone Castle, back home. (The boat had apparently been delayed for 6 days awaiting the players). Spaning 12 days, with 43 hours 16 minutes of action, combined with rest days and rain interruptions, the match was called off as heavy rain washed out the final session. Everyone had had enough of this, the last timeless Test, so it ended up being abandoned, without a result. This was the last Test match for a good while, as later in 1939 the war against fascism started, but that’s another story for another time.


Anyhow Almanackers, all the best for 2020 CE.




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  1. Good research, Glen! There are a couple in here that I had forgotten or did not know about.

  2. Liam Hauser says

    Although the highest successful run chase in Test history is 418, which the West Indies achieved against Australia in 2003, the figure (for highest successful Test run chase) could have been much higher. In my book A Century of Cricket Tests, I had to write up 100 of the best Tests until season 2012-13. An automatic inclusion was the so-called timeless Test in Durban in 1939. At 5-654, England needed just 42 more runs for a phenomenal victory when the match had to be cut short so that the tourists could catch their boat back home. Therefore, the highest successful Test run chase could just as easily (!) have been 696 rather than 418.
    One particular ‘abandoned’ cricket match that sticks in my mind was a Mercantile Mutual Cup match at the WACA on November 15, 2000. Queensland was 1-20 off 5 overs, in 23 minutes of play on a hot day, when the WA-Queensland contest was abandoned because the pitch was considered too dangerous.

  3. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    1975 Ashes, a vandalised pitch cost Rick McCosker the chance to complete his maiden Test century.

  4. Swish beat me to it yep that was my 1st thought as well staggering that the Pom’s were well on track to get 705 ! Thanks Glen

  5. Liam Hauser says

    Hi Mark, the 1975 Headingley Test also features in A Century of Cricket Tests. Interesting to note that Rod Marsh, with scores of 25 and 12, opened the batting with McCosker, who scored 0 and 95 not out. The last day was interestingly poised with Australia 3-220, chasing 445, when it was discovered that the pitch was sabotaged with holes and oil. Slogans of “G Davis is innocent” were proclaimed, regarding the imprisonment of George Davis. It was easy to forget that rain arrived at noon on the last day, meaning the Test match probably would have ended in a rain-affected draw were it not for the vandalism.

    Another abandoned Test that deserves attention was when Pakistan hosted Zimbabwe in 1998-99. The tourists won the first Test before the second Test was cut short due to weather. As it turned out, the third Test was cancelled without a ball bowled. The weather problem in the second and third Tests was not rain as reported in some sources, but fog. Yes, the cancellation of a Test due to fog, helped Zimbabwe win a Test series for the first time.

  6. Thanks Glen. That was a great read.
    I too, recall that 1975 Ashes Test (just).

  7. Great story Glen.

  8. Thanks for the comments chaps.

    How/why i forgot the third test of the 1975 Ashes series befuddled me. I recall watching a fair bit of those four days on the old black’n’white telly.

    ‘Phil’ Edmonds, the Zambian born left arm slow bowler made his debut in that match. He helped roll us for 135 in our first innings. His first test wicket was GS Chappell, then picked up Ross Edwards next ball. In the previous test at Lords a gritty 99 by Edwards in our first innings kept us in the match.

    You’re so right Liam, about the arrival of rain on the final day. After the graffiti and vandalism of the pitch to draw attention to the incarceration of a career criminal George Davis, the fact it rained steadily most of the final day would have curtailed any chance of a result.


  9. Luke Reynolds says

    Great piece Glen, some interesting stories there! Reckon there would be some pretty interesting tales of abandoned ODI’s too.

  10. Harigovind says

    Good one Glen

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