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Bess highlights "dangerous" conditions in final session

by  chenjueya  •  Last updated on 2020-08-24 15:39:55

Dom Bess has called for the wellbeing of players to be given greater consideration in decisions about when to stop play for bad light after claiming conditions were "dangerous" in the final session of the third day at Ageas Bowl.

England dropped three catches in the closing stages, all off the bowling of James Anderson and all seemingly straightforward, but Bess said poor light was a factor and claimed that he could not see the ball at times in the final hour. "It's no excuse but it was really dark out there," the Somerset spinner said. "I was stood at square leg, and Azhar [Ali] pulled one off Jofra [Archer] and I did not see it. All seriousness, if that is hit straight at me I genuinely don't know what I'm going to be doing.

"I guess playing in those conditions we have got to be really switched on with it and actually we have got to start thinking a little bit about the players' well-being, because you've got [numbers] 10, 11 there having to face up to someone like Jofra in those conditions - it is seriously dangerous. We talk about dropped catches, obviously no one means to do it, and it probably looks a lot easier than it did out there. I was at gully and I didn't really see it.

"I don't know what it looks like on TV, it might look little bit brighter, but certainly out here it was gloomy. With the brand new pill which is obviously shiny as well, it is hard. I don't think it is any excuse for dropping this catches. No one means to do it. But also you've got to take into account being out there and what it was like."

The officials faced criticism during the second Test, in which just 134.3 overs were possible, for taking the players off for bad light too readily and for tardiness in getting action re-started after rain interruptions. In response, the ECB and ICC confirmed that in the event of wet weather or bad light in the final Test of the summer, they would allow time to be made up at the start, rather than the end, of each day to reduce the potential impact of bad light in the evening curtailing play even further.

There has clearly also been a greater willingness from the umpires to be flexible in a bid to get more play on during this game. After rain interrupted today's morning session, the umpires moved the lunch break earlier, while it will still raining, so that play could resume as quickly as possible once it stopped. They also kept the players on the field until 6.56pm before the light eventually got too poor. Bess said the light meter reading was 430 when the umpires stopped play this evening compared to 700 when the players went off in the previous Test.

"When we came off, I think, in the second Test match, it was 700, and that's dark," Bess said. "I think you might have to ask the umpires and get a general number. I wouldn't be able to say. But I think it's roughly 700 to 800 when the question starts in terms of coming off. We're at 430 [today].

"We are trying to get cricket played but from just my perspective on players' well-being, imagine if someone gets hit there and it is really serious? Say the number 10 or 11 gets hit by Jofra because we are out there - what happens then? It's just calling out for a bit of common sense in terms of when it is too dark, we've got to go. And when it's not, we try and play because everyone wants to be out there."

The ICC's playing regulations state that the umpires can halt play when the light becomes "dangerous" or "unreasonable" but defining what those terms mean in practice is no easy task. The floodlights were on at the Ageas Bowl, for instance, and Pakistan's batsmen did not seem unduly discomfited by the light. In the penultimate over of play, Azhar Ali pulled a short ball from Archer in front of square for four.

Bess did not think the officials had overreacted to the criticism of the previous Test match but did call for greater "common sense" from the officials. "We want to be playing cricket and don't get it wrong in terms of the players - obviously we all want to be out there playing cricket," Bess said. "But again, there's got to be a little bit more common sense in terms of when it is too dark. I think if you get the metre readings out there, as we walked back on, it was 430 so I think that paints the picture."

England finally bowled Pakistan out after a day of toil in the field. At one stage, when Pakistan had been reduced to 75 for 5, it looked possible that a three-day victory could be on the cards. But Azhar's fine hundred, and good support from Mohammad Rizwan in particular, kept the home side at bay for longer than they would have hoped. England have, however, enforced the follow-on and will attempt to claim the ten wickets they need for victory over the next two days despite the wet weather that is forecast.

"We're in a great position," Bess said. "We talk about our blueprint as a team, which is scoring plenty of runs. We got the option to enforce the follow-on, which we have, and now we have two days to bowl them out.

There's a little bit of weather around but you'd like to think with the bowling attack we have that we can produce the goods."

Anderson will be looking for the two wickets he needs to become the first fast-bowler in Test history to reach 600 Test scalps. "He's the GOAT isn't he? The GOAT of bowling and England's greatest. Myself, Sibbers, Popey. Crawley, have all grown up watching him play and I guess it's phenomenal to stand there at point watching him nick people off and hit people on the shins. To watch him take as many poles as he does and do it so consistently. There was chat about potential retirement and then he comes back and absolutely tears it up. That just shows how good he is."