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When a fish stopped play

November 12, 2003 19:39 IST

It wasn't just a case of 'roller stops play', more of 'roller halts history'.

If a stray practice ball had not been crushed into the wicket by the heavy roller in Harare last week, Zimbabwe would surely have beaten West Indies in a Test for the first time in their history.

The incident caused play to be delayed by around two hours on the third morning. Two days later, West Indies, nine men down, escaped with a losing draw.

In time, Zimbabwe spinner Ray Price's 10-wicket haul will be forgotten and it will be the roller which will be remembered.

Cricket is already full of such oddities.

'Rain stopped play' is a common refrain, of course, and bad light an everyday hazard. Streakers, in some parts of the world at least, used to be as well.

Lightning, though, has also held up the show, as well as snow, while an earth tremor caused a break during a one-day international in Trinidad in 1983.

SWARM OF BEES

Domestic pets, rodents of various hues and sizes, even the odd buffalo have prompted cricketing interruptions, as have swarms of bees -- as occurred in Madras in a Ranji Trophy match between Tamil Nadu and Punjab just over three years ago -- and birds.

The most famous case cost the perpetrator its life. A sparrow was hit in mid-flight and killed by a delivery from Jehangir Khan at Lord's and the unfortunate bird ended up stuffed, mounted and on display in the pavilion.

There is even a recorded case of 'fish stopped play', when a two-foot specimen landed in the middle of a pitch in Sri Lanka, dropped by a sea eagle harassed by crows.

Interventions of a human kind, however, are rarely as diverting.

England, set to lose a one-dayer against Pakistan in Leeds in 2001

after some magical bowling from Waqar Younis, opted to concede the game rather than return to play out the game after jubilant fans invaded the square, putting a steward in hospital in the process and stealing the stumps.

India fans in the 1996 World Cup, meanwhile, established a new low by pelting Sri Lanka fielders and starting fires in the stands when their side began struggling in the Calcutta semi-final. The supporters were probably hoping to get the game replayed. Instead it was awarded to Sri Lanka by default.

SPORTSMANSHIP

Humans are forever finding reasons to interrupt each other's games.

Indian politicians, mixing Kashmir with sport, have managed to do that for several years by barring their cricketers from visiting Pakistan. British prime minister Tony Blair also did his best to prevent England's visit to Zimbabwe during this year's World Cup.

Occasionally, however -- very occasionally -- sportsmanship prevails to such an extent that play goes on, against all odds.

In South Africa earlier this year, the umpires were set to call off a World Cup mis-match between world champions Australia and the Netherlands at Potchefstroom due to a waterlogged pitch.

Rainwater on top of the covers was then accidentally spilled onto the wicket, turning it into a swimming pool. Even a helicopter failed to blow-dry the surface.

The Dutch coach, sensing a historic first point in the World Cup for his amateur side, was delighted, until his team mutinied and demanded the game go ahead whatever the conditions.

"For most of our players, these types of games will be the highlights of their careers," team captain Roland Lefebvre had said. "And you don't improve by sitting in the pavilion."

Tony Lawrence
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