Perhaps it was fitting that rain should deny Worcestershire any chance of progressing in the Friends Provident Trophy.
Rain has been a feature in almost every story about the club in the last year or so and the abandonment of Wednesday's match against Gloucestershire ended any chance Worcestershire had of progressing in this competition.
Nor is the water torture over. The forecast for the coming days is dreadful and there is a growing fear that heavy rain in north Wales, the area that feeds the rivers around Worcester, could cause more problems.
“Of course I’m worried,” Mark Newton, the club’s chief executive, said. “I look at the forecast all the time these days. There are no flood warnings at present, but 24 hours can change all that. I’m not sitting comfortably.”
Another episode of flooding would be most unwelcome. The poor weather so far this summer has resulted in greatly reduced numbers of spectators while the club could ill afford to lose another chunk of its hospitality business or incur more clean-up costs.
“Losses are in the low tens of thousands at present and there’s no doubt that our Twenty20 sales have been affected,” Newton said. “The figures are not desperate but we have lost quite a lot of money so far this season.
“It’s a shame because the two-year flood recovery plan is going very well. Everyone has been terrific: the members, the England & Wales Cricket Board, Advantage West Midlands and the Supporters’ Association; they’ve all been great.
“We’ve fantastic drainage now, which has made a huge difference, but unless it stops raining people aren’t going to feel like coming to the cricket.”
But now, at last, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Worcestershire have finally made progress with their redevelopment plans and could be in a position to begin work on a new pavilion at the end of this season. The major redevelopment, which will involve raising the level of the new buildings at the New Road end of the ground, could then begin late in 2009.
The key has been the talks with a hotel chain which, it is believed, have progressed beyond the point at which further flooding would cause a problem.“It’s the best news going,” Newton said. “We’ve had very positive discussions with one commercial partner in particular and we hope to be able to make an announcement in the next two or three months.”
Though the redevelopment will not prevent the playing area from future floods, it would prevent much of the damage to buildings. The new hotel, offices, stands and media centre will all be built above the level of flood waters, while the new pavilion on the site of the current building will be a two-storey structure which will also prove less liable to the elements.
The core of the current pavilion, which is in a desperately poor state, will be moved to the position of the current Ladies Pavilion, which will, in turn, be demolished. Planning permission was granted in 2006.
Not that anyone at the club was thinking about such matters yesterday. Despite relentless rain up until early afternoon, Worcestershire were desperate to play. The efforts of their groundstaff were little short of herculean but, after much prevarication, the umpires called off the match at just before 4pm.
Steve Rhodes was not looking for any excuses, however. Worcestershire’s director of cricket was honest enough to admit that his side should have wrapped up qualification some time ago. “We shouldn’t have been in this position,” he said. “It would have been much better if we’d qualified in style but our one-day form has been up and down and our batting has struggled at times. This should be a good format of the game for this team, so it is disappointing to be out.
“I do feel, though, that this competition is played a bit early in the season. It reminds me of the old NatWest Trophy games where you started at 10.30am and whoever won the toss won the game. It’s a good competition and I think the power-plays are fantastic but you don’t get a chance to use them; you’re so busy trying not to get out. Maybe that’s something they could look at?
“Tim Packwood [the groundsman] has done a tremendous job and I do feel the umpires have called off play a bit early. There are spectators in and maybe we could have looked again in an hour and got in a ten-over-a-side game”
Moments after Rhodes spoke, however, the rain returned. It left Worcestershire disappointed in one competition but, if the redevelopment really is imminent, the future of the club is looking brighter than it has for months
Elsewhere, rain prevented any play on the first day of Warwickshire’s match against Lancashire in the Second Division Championship at Edgbaston.
Meanwhile, the England and Wales Cricket Board’s top brass will today discuss proposals for changes to the domestic structure with great emphasis on 20-over cricket.
The ECB board will consider restructuring the Twenty20 Cup, a revamp of the NatWest Pro40 across two 20-over innings per side and tinkering with the County Championship A range of options are being considered although nothing will be decided before the latest batch of market research is completed next month.