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Rain and rage kill match

Guwahati, April 9: After a 29-month wait for the chance to host a one-dayer, Guwahati had agreed to slot it at a time of the year when it always rains.

Slush prevented a single ball being bowled in the fifth India-England ODI, prompting frustrated fans to rain missiles on police and vandalise the stadium, creating conditions for abandonment due to violence just before the game was officially called off because of ground conditions.

The crowd was already simmering after the first three ground inspections ' at 9 am, 10.30 am and 12 ' wondering about the possible fate of the match in the absence of a proper public address system.

Shortly before umpires Rudi Koertzen and A.V. Jayaprakash came out at 1.15 for one last look, plastic bottles and food packets started to fly from the stands.

Within minutes, galleries No. 1, 10, 11 and 12 had erupted, the fans lighting bonfires, tearing down hoardings, targeting TV cameras and throwing stones at the 2,000 security personnel. The crowd ripped off parts of the concrete base of the fencing and began using the lumps ' up to half a kilo in weight ' as missiles.

As a policeman lay unconscious after a hit on the head ' alongside a spectator beaten with batons ' some securitymen hurled back the half-bricks at the crowd. An hour of mayhem and two rounds of teargas later, the stands were cleared around 2.15.

The teams watched the trouble from the pavilion for a while before their buses rushed out of the stadium.

England cricketer Andrew Strauss said: “We could see people getting frustrated, but the disturbances were some way from the dressing room.”

The English team initially had reservations about the facilities and security in Guwahati but had been persuaded to play.

A downcast Assam Cricket Association secretary, Bikash Baruah, was unhappy with the umpires’ decision. “The field was fit for play by noon. We had asked the BCCI to reschedule the match when the dates were declared.”

The Met office said it had rained here from April 1 through April 14 every year since 2003. The ACA promised to refund the 19,000 spectators.

Earlier, spectators carrying posters of Sourav Ganguly booed Greg Chappell as he stepped out for a feel of the soggy ground. The coach hastily retreated, a banner behind him screaming: “Go back Chappell, bring back Ganguly.”

Fans had parked themselves outside the team hotel yesterday, yelling at Chappell whenever they sighted him.

The cancellation of the match robbed Mahendra Singh Dhoni of another possible motorbike ride after the presentation ceremony, but he won’t be complaining.

The ACA had hired a helicopter at Rs 90,000 an hour to dry the field. It gave up after 40 minutes, but not before Dhoni and Irfan Pathan had clambered aboard for a ride.

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