Abandoned Matches



Exactly 50 seasons ago Hampshire’s season ended with the last four days abandoned, breaking all Hampshire hearts and depriving them of what would have been their last Championship title. There is then perhaps a certain irony that this year with Hampshire again tipped as one of the sides most likely to challenge Surrey for the title they have started with four days without play – albeit now just one game, unlike the two in 1974. There was also the slight consolation of eight points for the ‘draw’ unlike back then, although since Worcestershire also drew in 1974 the positions would have remained unaltered.


The years in the mid-20th Century suffered rather more from wet weather than in recent times, almost certainly in part a consequence of full covering being introduced in 1981, although there was a short experiment with covering from 1959-1962. Indeed this abandonment against Durham was only the second Hampshire Championship match written-off completely since the introduction of four-day games 36 years ago – the other, in 1997 was against the same opponents on the same ground and Kevan James, in the side but ‘not playing’ for those four days, was back this year, ‘not commentating’!


Hampshire’s Championship story began in 1895 and between then and the disruption of the First World War those twenty seasons saw an abandonment in just one year when the two sides failed to bowl a ball in the first match of the season at the Oval, starting on 7 May 1903. Oddly, despite no toss the two teams were named, which does not happen today. That was a bad start but there was something of a curse on that season as Hampshire finished joint bottom with Leicestershire and having lost one match to the weather, they lost two more, against Somerset at Bath and Essex at Leyton. Again, the teams were named at Bath but not at Leyton and none of the matches were included in their final list of games played.


Until that short experiment beginning in 1959,Championship matches were played with covering regulations that generally left the pitch open to the elements once play had started so it was perhaps sheer good luck that between the wars, Hampshire lost just two more games in August 1927 against Worcestershire at Worcester and again in August 1931 against Lancashire at Old Trafford – two grounds known for damp conditions on occasions. When the next abandonment came in July 1957 it was at Swansea, so to that point none of the abandoned games had been scheduled at home.


That changed in the generally damp summer of 1960 – the start of the ‘swinging sixties’ perhaps but as reported in Wisden’s various surveys of the twentieth century in 2020, the most disappointing summer decade in terms of rain, gloom and cold of the hundred years. That was an overall average reported by television forecaster Philip Eden but before we leave 1903 behind it’ s worth adding that Eden reported courtesy of Wisden that the wettest summers were 1903, 1946 – a cruel fact after a six season wait – 1956 and 1958. The 1960s were worse than the 1950s overall because they had some decent years too, notably 1959 which was the third sunniest behind 1989 and the heatwave summer of 1976. 1959 was also the fourth for dry days behind 1949, 1911 and 1976. Hampshire had a fine year in 1955 finishing third for the first time and that year enjoyed the tenth most dry days with another good year 1961 in eighth.


Sadly the 1960s had three years in the list of coldest seasons (1962, 1965 and 1968) while 1968 was also second gloomiest in terms of hours of sunshine, 1966 was eighth wettest, and 1965 had the seventh fewest dry days. All this conspired to place two matches in that decade on our abandoned list, both of them matches that started late August and spilled into September – in 1963 against Warwickshire at Bournemouth and 1966 against Middlesex at Lord’s.


Having gone 19 seasons until 1957 with no abandonments, Hampshire suffered four in ten seasons and despite the warmth of 1975 and 1976 there would be four in six seasons in the 1970s, starting with the nightmare of Yorkshire at Bournemouth in September 1974, then the only abandonment of a first-class tourist game when the Australians came to Southampton in May 1977, followed by Middlesex at Lord’s in May 1978 and Leicestershire at Leicester in May/June 1979 – a late ‘70s hat-trick.


Two years later there was another abandonment against Surrey at the Oval and then in September 1986 a wash-out against Lancashire at Southampton – suddenly it seemed that the culprits were not simply the northern grounds, although unlike Southampton and Bournemouth, the chalk soil and benign climate probably saved Portsmouth from any complete losses. Then in 1997 there was the previously mentioned match at Chester-le-Street, in fact one of only three such ‘results’ in Durham and our first anywhere in a four-day game.


It was also our last one until this year although there have been two very short versions: in September 1989 at Bristol, Hampshire and Gloucestershire only got into the 90th over from four days, while our home game against Essex in ‘lockdown’ 2000 was switched to Arundel where there was just time for a Cook century in the 78 overs possible.


Otherwise in this century we lost two three-day first-class friendlies against the students in Oxford’s Parks in April 2000 and April 2001. It seems that on the whole, covering, improved drainage and ‘Global Warming’ (or Cricket’s Weather Gods) is preventing the number of abandonments that were once more common so let’s hope this year’s is again the last for the next 27 years.


Dave Allen

April 2024