St George's Park History
Port Elizabeth, South Africa

The Matches St George's Park - EP Walk Off the Field - and Forfeit the Game
EP Walk Off the Field - and Forfeit the Game
Geoff Summerton

The Eastern Province - Rhodesia Currie Cup cricket fixture on November 21, 1972, ended in uproar at the Queen's Ground in Bulawayo when the umpires awarded the match to Rhodesia because "Eastern Province refused to play".

In a scene surely unprecedented in first-class cricket history, skipper Lome Wilmot led his side from the field because he believed the prescribed final 20 overs had been bowled.

Umpires Chris Sweeting and lan Forrest, on the other hand, considered one more over was required to be bowled, with Rhodesia needing a further six runs for victory.

'With a bewildered crowd of about 2 000 roaring their displeasure, 'Wilmot, his team and the EP manager, Mr Alan Thompson, milled around in a group just inside the boundry.

Meanwhile, the umpires called "play" three times and then lifted the bails and awarded the match to Rhodesia when the players declined to return.

It was an unhappy and dismaying situation. Both umpires, after being closeted for 20 minutes with the EP manager in a caravan parked near the boundary, steadfastly refused to comment except to confirm that the match had been awarded to Rhodesia.

In the Eastern Province dressing room, Wilmot explained his point of view. He said: "When we were about to bowl the over which we thought was the first of the last 20,1 asked umpire Mr Sweeting whether this was correct. He said it was.

"Then Claude Pittaway, the bowler, also asked Mr Sweeting and received similar confirmation.

When the over had been bowled we had drinks and the umpires then told us the following over would be the first of the 20. I objected to this."

In the Press tent there was no doubt that the umpire did signal to the scorers before the start of the over preceding the drinks, but a few minutes after the players had resumed, reserve umpire Dave Levy went to the scorers and to the Pressmen to say the over after drinks would be the first of the 20.

Mike Procter, the Rhodesian captain, confirmed after the match that the umpires' decision was conveyed to the captains - Procter was one of the batsmen - during the drinks interval.

The problem arose because the umpires were in position a minute before the last hour, but Eastern Province dillydallied until the clock on the ground had moved into the last hour.

In the circumstances, the umpires seemed justified in ruling that that particular over would not be one of the final 20. However, the umpires' refusal to comment prevented Pressmen from discovering from them whether they had, in fact, changed their minds.

Eastern Province Herald sports writer, Geoff Summerton said afterwards: "I doubt sincerely whether the Eastern Province action will win many friends. It was ill conceived and in poor taste. If there was a misunderstanding - and presumably there was - a far better course of action would have been for Eastern Province to play out the over in dispute and later to lodge a complaint.

"The decision to walk off cannot be condoned and the umpires' ruling - they are the sole judges of fact - must surely be accepted."

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