Israel’s cricketers recorded a new first on Friday: A game between home side Lod and visitors Ra’anana Seconds was halted when fire broke out in an adjoining field, sending clouds of white smoke billowing across the pitch.
Cricket, that subtlest of sports invented and popularized by the English, has been flourishing in Israel in recent years, with new day and night leagues springing up, and native Israelis, including Negev Bedouin, doing battle with immigrants from India, South Africa, Australia and England, and foreign workers’ teams.
But the dry climate, shortages of water and absence of purpose-built pitches pose frequent challenges. Games are played on matting pitches in sandy clearings in southern cities like Dimona and Beersheba, and on a variety of other temporary pitches laid across soccer fields in other towns.
The Lod pitch, not far from Ben-Gurion International Airport, is relatively grassy, but some of the surrounding area is dry and combustible, and fire broke out there in the late-morning heat Friday, toward the end of the Ra’anana innings in a 20/20 game. Smoke blew directly across the pitch, making life harder still for Ra’anana’s batsmen, who were already having a difficult time against a strong Lod bowling attack.
The players came off the field as the fire services arrived to tackle the blaze. The interruption was brief, with the fire swiftly brought under control. Ra’anana’s ordeal was more protracted: It managed a respectable 145 for two in its 20 overs, but was overhauled by Lod with four overs to spare.