England may have been handed an Ashes lifeline after water crept under the covers in Perth overnight and delayed play on the final day. Their coach, Trevor Bayliss, expressed concern that the water on the pitch could make batting “difficult and maybe even a little dangerous” and that as things stand it is “unacceptable” for play.
England, trailing by 127 with six wickets in hand going into the fifth day, require at least a draw to ensure they travel to Melbourne with any hope of retaining the Ashes. If Australia win in Perth, they will have an unassailable 3-0 lead in the five-match series.
But England’s hopes of securing may have received an unexpected boost by a delay at the start of the fifth day. Heavy overnight rain appears to have caused water to leak under the covers affecting an area of the pitch roughly on a good length at the Lillee and Marsh end of the ground.
The groundstaff are currently using leaf blowers in an attempt to dry the area, though there may be some concern from the English camp that such action could accelerate the deterioration of the pitch and cause the cracks that are apparent at that end to open and crumble. As a result, the abandonment of the game is a possibility.
The groundstaff’s efforts are being hampered by squalls of rain that are blowing across the ground at irregular intervals.
“There has been leakage under the covers overnight,” umpire Chris Gaffaney said. “It’s really soft at the moment. It’s just a wait and see process.
“The pitch has to be the same for both sides but, at the moment, we feel the pitch has been altered overnight.”
There is no evidence of any hole in the covers or that they blew off overnight. Nor is there any suggestion that someone may have tampered with them. It could even prove that the moisture has been caused by condensation or sweating – the tight covers were pulled over a slightly damp surface last night – though the degree of dampness on the pitch would seem to render that unlikely.
Either way, the delay may well be an embarrassment to the WACA Ground management. This is the venue’s final Ashes Test, though other less high-profile matches, including Tests may still be staged here and this incident is sure to cause some reflection on the quality of covers at the ground.