Alastair Cook paid tribute to the overworked Hampshire head groundsman Nigel Gray and his team as England crushed India at the Rose Bowl.
Gray, who fought a brave battle against the elements when the Hampshire venue hosted Test cricket earlier this summer, was the luckless soul in the firing line once again yesterday as strong winds and heavy rain lashed down to threaten the one-day international clash.
But while most were predicting an abandonment for much of the afternoon, Gray and his team got to work the moment the rain relented to get the game started around 20 minutes before the cut-off point.
A sell-out crowd, who had waited patiently for play to begin, were then treated to an entertaining 23-overs-per-side match, with Cook leading the way with an unbeaten 80 as England sealed a seven-wicket victory.
Cook was quick to praise the Rose Bowl staff for their efforts when plenty of other venues would have accepted defeat much more readily.
Cook said: ‘First of all, we have to thank the ground staff.
‘The weather didn’t look great but the ground staff did a fantastic job to get the pitch ready as quickly as they did.
‘They put a lot of effort in, the drainage was good and it proved it was certainly the right decision to get the game on.
‘The pitch prepared was a fantastic one to bat on.
‘We thought when we won the toss and bowled, it would be ideal conditions for us.
‘The pitch had been under the covers all day, there had been rain about and it was cloudy.
‘But after the first couple of overs, we realised it wasn’t doing anything so we had to hang in there. It was an amazing effort to get it ready and it was a great game of cricket.
‘That was the best wicket I’ve batted on for a long time.’
Rose Bowl chairman Rod Bransgrove must have been quietly cursing the English weather when he woke up yesterday morning to see heavy rain and strong wind on the day his club was hosting England again.
It was anything but cricket weather as the 2pm scheduled start time came and went, with umbrellas being blown inside out at regular intervals.
But things brightened up later in the afternoon and the fans’ patience paid off as India posted a competitive 187 for eight from their 23 overs as the large numbers of Indian fans cheered every run.
The England supporters became more vocal in the reply, though, as Cook, in tandem with Craig Kieswetter (46), set the tone for the hosts.
And once they were ahead of the game, England never looked like throwing it away as they completed the chase in professional style.