NEWS: Blaze Defend Decision To Play At Welbeck

The Blaze have defended their decision to play at Welbeck Cricket Club, after their match against Thunder was abandoned on Monday despite no rain falling all day, due to an unsafe pitch.

CRICKETher understands that the pitch had been used for a men’s club match on Saturday, and that play continued despite falling rain, meaning that the bowler’s run-ups were churned up and unusable by the time Monday’s regional fixture came around.

The umpires were forced to call off the fixture at 2.00pm, meaning that the points on offer were split equally between the two teams.

James Cutt, The Blaze’s Director of Cricket, told CRICKETher:

“While any matchday where we are not able to get onto the field of play is clearly frustrating, this has been a challenging summer nationwide in terms of the sheer amount of wet weather we have suffered – an issue which was only exacerbated by some poor localised weather over the weekend.

“With areas of the ground then failing to improve sufficiently on the day, we recognised, alongside the match officials, that conditions weren’t appropriate for a professional game of cricket, and that the risk to injury remained too high if we were to go ahead and play the game.

“The John Fretwell Centre has a strong recent history of staging professional cricket, with nine Nottinghamshire men’s fixtures staged there over the past eight years, so it’s a setup which is used to the demands of that level of the game.

“We’re really keen to ensure we take The Blaze around the East Midlands this summer, to ensure that this is a team which people across the region can invest their support in, and that we can inspire girls and boys from around the region to pick up a bat and ball.”

The ECB would be within their rights to penalise The Blaze for the incident. The Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy Playing Conditions state that the home team must ensure venues are suitable for play 72 hours prior to the scheduled fixture or arrange an alternative, and that “failure to comply with this… may result in the deduction of points from a Regional Host and the possible award of additional points to another Regional Host”.

Perhaps a greater concern is that this may not be a one-off. The expansion of the regional calendar this season means that a number of regional fixtures are now being played at club grounds. The Blaze are returning to Welbeck twice more this season; while Central Sparks played a “home” fixture against Southern Vipers at Wormsley Cricket Ground on Monday, despite this being within Buckinghamshire (home territory of the Vipers!) Is women’s regional cricket losing out in the battle for pitches to men’s club cricket, and is this acceptable in 2023?