Players and umpires at loggerheads after abandonment
Alistair Bushe (News Letter)
PLAYERS and umpires were at loggerheads last night after yesterday’s NCU Premier League game between Lisburn and North Down was controversially called off for a second time.
The game was abandoned shortly before the scheduled starting time of 12pm after a discussion between the umpires Ronnie McAlpine and Andy Kennedy, and captains David Simpson of Lisburn and Peter Shields of North Down.
The pitch and run-ups were in perfect condition but the umpires had previously raised concerns with the captains about several wet areas of the outfield which they said were dangerous.
However, with minutes of the postponement, North Down all-rounder Alistair Shields was among those players who took to the social networking site Twitter to reveal his dismay at the postponement.
Umpire Ronnie McAlpine later contacted the News Letter to convey his side of the story. He claimed areas of the outfield, including gully, square leg, fine leg and deep mid-wicket were “unfit and dangerous”. However, he also insisted that it was the decision of the captains, and not the umpires, to abandon the game.
“We had inspected the outfield at 11.30am and while the wicket was fine, and the run-ups were perfect, certain parts of the outfield were unfit and dangerous. Everyone was in agreement that those areas were very bad However, we said we were happy to wait until 12.30pm to see if there was any improvement.
“Then the captains called myself and Andy Kennedy over at 11.50am and said that they had been speaking to the groundsman who said that the ground would not improve during the day. We said we were happy to hang on there until 12.30pm, but they said there was no point. We shook hands and left.”
Lisburn later practiced on the ground for two and a half hours and Simpson was adamant that both sets of players had wanted to play.
He said: “The players and umpires disagreed over the interpretation of what was unplayable. Both ourselves and North Down were happy to play, but the umpires were not. At 11.30am they said they would be prepared to wait for an hour until 12.30pm to see if it improved. But the sun wasn’t out and there was no wind, there was no way it would have improved enough to have satisfied the umpires in just an hour.
“Even the North Down pro, who has never played in this country before, was amazed that they wouldn’t play. But because the umpires felt conditions were unplayable there was no point in waiting for an hour.”
He added, “We practiced later for two and a half hours after North Down and the umpires left, we batted, bowled and fielded on the ground and it was fit for play.”
Simpson’s opposite number Shields was in total agreement.
He said: “Simmo spoke to the assistant groundsman who said there was no chance the ground would improve enough during the day (to satisfy the umpires). When we reported that to the umpires they called the game off, not us.
“That decision was up to them, they said it was dangerous, end of story. Both captains had thought we were going to play some cricket, but the umpires thought it was dangerous. It was a difference in opinion.”