PERTH, (Reuters) – The start of the final day’s play in the third Ashes test between Australia and England has been delayed after rainwater leaked onto the WACA pitch following heavy overnight showers, raising fears that the match could be abandoned.
Play was scheduled to start at 10:00 a.m. local time (0200 GMT) but was delayed as ground staff used leaf-blowers to dry out damp patches at the southern end of the wicket.
Already 2-0 down in the five-test series, England were in a perilous position at 132 for four when rain brought stumps early on day four, still 127 runs shy of making Australia bat again.
WACA CEO Christina Matthews said ground staff were unprepared for the rain and “slow” to protect the pitch.
“The hessian (covers) got wet and it’s just been unbelievable late yesterday and last night, blustery, trying to get things,” she told ABC radio.
“I think in their efforts to try to get going they’ve been slightly slow in getting the hessian back on and things like that.
“But we’ve certainly got enough people working on it.
“The hard thing for us is we don’t normally have these conditions so reacting to it is a little bit different to other places.”
The umpires said the pitch needed to be as dry as it was at the end of day four but it was unclear how long that would take as rain squalls interrupted patches of sunshine over the ground.
“There was a bit of leakage overnight so they’re doing a bit of a drying job with the blowers,” umpire Marais Erasmus told BT Sport.
“I guess (the leak) was from where the covers join,” second umpire Chris Gaffaney added.
England coach Trevor Bayliss described the wicket as like “plasticine”.
“It probably needs a little bit more wind and probably a little bit of sun, I would say,” he told host broadcaster Channel Nine.
“It is unfortunate really. It was going to be a good day of cricket — it might still be at some stage.”
With Australia needing only six wickets to wrap up the match and reclaim the Ashes, coach Darren Lehmann was far more eager than his England counterpart for a resumption.
“It is improving and we’ll just wait and see,” he told ABC radio.
“It’s not too bad, I’m sure it will dry out with the wind and the roller.”
Former England captain Michael Vaughan said there were still “five or six” damp patches on the pitch and he could understand if current skipper Joe Root was reluctant to start given the number of people and equipment that had been on the wicket.
“Until they get to the colour of what the pitch was like yesterday, I don’t think that you can start.
“It is embarrassing.”
Australia said earlier on Monday they had an injury concern over Mitchell Starc, with the pace spearhead sustaining a bruised heel but was fit to bowl.