Three stumps
The play in the fourth test match of the Ashes 2019 went on without the bails on when Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne were batting for Australia

An Ashes test match always carries an air of anticipation. When the fourth test match of the Ashes 2019 was about to begin, you could feel a bit extra because of Headingley. The series was level, a victory at Old Trafford was necessary for both the teams.

But all the cricket romantics were excited for one more thing. Steve Smith was making his return. Jofra Archer will bowl to him. The contest was much awaited. Finally, it arrived.

Jofra Archer opened the bowling with Stuart Broad. It seemed like Archer was bowling well within himself. Maybe he was warming up. Maybe he was waiting for Smith. Whatever it was, Australia’s openers did not last long. Finally Steve Smith walked out. Archer was still fresh. The battle was on. Now Archer started to steam in. But so did the rain.

Just when Australia were building a partnership, it rained. The play stopped. Once it resumed, it was Archer to Smith once again. This was what people had come for. But the English weather had other ideas.

A ball came floating onto the ground. Hardly a few balls later, a few packets of chips and other such covers were flying all over the ground. The wind went upto an extent that the umpires had to remove the bails. And suddenly, the most anticipated battle from the past week didn’t feel as important.

It was confusion all around. There were no bails on the stumps. If someone had told the previous night that, you would not talk about Smith and Archer when they were on the pitch, what would you have thought? The play went on without the bails for a few balls and suddenly the contest between bat and ball became less relevant. All the eyes were on the stumps, which reflected an odd feeling without the bails on. After a few balls, fourth umpire Rob Bailey’s bails were brought on.

The wind brought kept on bringing different things onto the ground. And when the wind brought nothing else, it brought doubt. “I thought I heard the bails fall off,” Marnus Labuschagne was heard saying in the stump mic, when he wanted to stop play.

An afternoon that was reserved for a mean fast bowler and a wily batsman, the performers for a while were actually the wind and the bails, supported by balloons and packets of chips.

It was indeed confusing, and it also took the camera off the protagonists for a while.