It does not rain at the Rangiri Dambulla International Cricket Stadium at this time of the year. The South-Western monsoon is in play but never before has a match been affected. On Thursday,with less than an hour to go for the toss,it was bright sunshine. By 6.20 pm,though,the New Zealand versus Sri Lanka game it would have been the 1000th ODI became the first game at the Rangiri to be abandoned.
New Zealand skipper Ross Taylor won the toss and understandably decided to bat at a venue where a score over 220 can be tricky under lights that havent got the nod from all players. But even before both captains could leave the field,Sri Lanka Crickets national curator Anuruddha Polonowita was instructing his groundsmen to bring in the covers.
Dark clouds moved across,and the skies opened at 2.35 pm. It rained incessantly for an hour; first a heavy downpour and then a steady drizzle. Polonowita had a challenge on his hands here. The groundsmen were a harried lot,scampering across to pull the heavy covers and then place tyres over them.
Locals say it doesnt rain like this in Dambulla at this time of the year. Dambulla has been identified as the venue where the game can be played in rain-free conditions even as cricket venues in the South-Western part of the country,namely Colombo (Sinhalese Sports Club,R Premadasa Stadium) and Galle (Galle International Stadium) receive steady rain because of the South-Western monsoon.
As such,all they can come up with to describe the current spate is freak weather. Director general of the department of meteorology (Colombo),GB Samarasinghe,told The Indian Express that Dambulla was the best possible venue to hold a cricket match at this time of the year. During the South-Western monsoon period which exists till September,Dambulla receives no rain. However,Dambulla is currently being lashed by thunderstorms because of the uplifting of hot and humid air. These thunderstorms are likely to recur on Friday afternoon. But I would say this is freak weather, Samarasinghe said. He added that here,it rains from November to February,due to the North-Eastern monsoon.
At 4.45,the rain and thunderstorms returned,just as the covers were being lifted. The groundsmen,100 of them in all,got back to work. The cut-off time was put at 8.17 pm,but by 6.20 the match officials decided to abandon the game. In 39 one-day internationals played here prior to this game,only two have been rain-curtailed the first in 2003 was reduced to 46 overs and the other in 2007 was cut down to 48.
Thursdays game will now be re-started afresh on Friday,with off-spinner Suraj Randiv,banned for one match,out of the game. Even if a single delivery had been bowled on the day,the match would have resumed from where it had ended. Polonowita was confident that the ground would be fit for a full game if the thunderstorms ceased by morning. The drainage system here is good and my boys and I can surely ensure that the best ground conditions are provided, Polonowita said.
The reserve day and another for rest was included to ensure players dont tire in the hot and humid conditions. Games in Sri Lankan have been rain-affected,mostly famously the 2002 Asia Cup final between India and Sri Lanka at the Premadasa,Colombo,which couldnt be completed over two days.
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