Cricket is one of the few sports where even a light drizzle can bring an abrupt end to proceedings and wash out a match altogether.
There are few more frustrating and patience-testing things in sport than paying £90 for a ticket to a high-profile Test match, only for it to rain persistently throughout the day.
Spectators had just such bad luck on day four of the fifth Ashes Test at The Oval - an eagerly-anticipated date in the sporting diary that had been expected to produce drama and top-quality entertainment at a crucial point in the series.
For ticket-holders it could hardly have been more different: England retained the Ashes after the third Test, won them outright a match later and the players were kept off the pitch as the rain teemed down in London.
Plan B' for spectators is simply to trudge away to a local watering hole and debate DRS, or England's problem with the number six spot in the batting order, or whether Viv Richards was a better batting captain than Allan Border.
But what do the players do?
Well, here's 11 things, for starters...
1) Play changing-room cricket
There are few more entertaining and underrated activities than changing-room cricket. Helmets and pads on, tennis balls are hurled across the room and players and staff are crouched down around the bat ready to pounce in chaotic fashion for a low catch. Michael Atherton was the ideal changing-room cricket batsman, able to survive against all the odds.
2) Throw KP's kit bag out of the balcony window
Former Nottinghamshire captain Jason Gallian reportedly lobbed Kevin Pietersen's kit bag off the Trent Bridge balcony on one occasion, and that famous story has no doubt been repeated on numerous occasions after dressing-room feuds and bust-ups. With sponsors always at the other end of a phone line, there's no need to even bother to retrieve it.
3) Play practical jokes on each other, record them for autobiography purposes
Autobiographies from cricketers are famously dull. The anticipation for Andrew Flintoff's book 'Being Freddie' was killed dead when it was released and found to be the most platitudinous, tedious and lifeless offering in the history of sporting accounts. Still, the sole purpose of rain breaks is to provide an opportunity for practical jokes which can then be retold in autobiographies and on the weary after-dinner circuit.
4) Read the newspapers, even though they insist in interviews that they don't
Sports men and women always insist in interviews that they do not consume any media, that they stay away from TV reports and shun newspapers and magazines entirely. Rain delays catch out the players, though, who sit on the balcony and in the dressing room poring over the morning's papers and googling their names on their smart phones.
5) Take on David Saker in Greco-Roman wrestling
The burly Australian, who slots into England's enormous backroom staff as the bowling coach, is known to be a hugger of the very highest calibre, someone whose warm embrace has the effect of eliminating negative emotions and inducing fuzzy feelings. Challenge the Victorian man mountain to a bout of Greco-Roman wrestling, however, and the physio will soon have to be on hand.
6) Eat 17 bags of sweets, previously intended for dropping on the pitch
The England players love to scoff sweets during Test matches, this we well know. But what do they do when they can't lob jelly beans, wine gums and Murray mints onto the pitch or soak the ball in sweety slobber? The England dressing room represents nothing short of a fully-fledged tuck shop, so there is no holding back while the rain intervenes.
7) Sign autographs... after tipping off bored photographers
The great thing about rain delays is that players are given the opportunity of rewarding the hardy-souls remaining in the ground clutching umbrellas and soaked programmes with a smudged, hastily-scribbled autograph. Photographs with phones may be the new signatures, but the latter looks much better when the photographers gather round to snap away.
8) Work on cover-drives, shouldering arms and modelling in front of mirrors
Dressing rooms at top grounds always have enormous full-length mirrors on every wall, and with the current crop of England players it's a very good job. While Brylcreem Boy Kevin Pietersen moulds and sculpts his hair and Matt Prior shines his head with beeswax, Jonathan Trott can work on his extravagant leave and leg-side nurdle, accompanied by marking his guard. How else did Ian Bell perfect his sublime cover-drives?
9) Text and call the opposition, just because...
What else is there to do, other than text the opposition? Well, we've come up with a few other things that keep the players busy, but they still don't seem to stop stars from whipping out their phones and checking in with the oppo. Michael Clarke and Pietersen can spend the day renewing their scintillating banter from the middle on day three, for instance. "No one likes you LOLZ!" and the like. It's golden, it really is.
10) Sneak into Australia's dressing room, flick Lehmann's ears, run out
It has not taken long for everyone to be reminded how easy it is to rile and infuriate Australia coach Darren Lehmann. Stuart Broad managed to wind him up by being a 'blatant cheat' and 'carrying on', and it led to a now famous rant. Joe Root was punched by David Warner for annoying the Australian in a Walkabout bar, so he seems like the ideal candidate to charge into the tourists' dressing room and give Lehmann's ears a cheeky flick.
11) Draw pictures of each other, all in the name of charity or team bonding
We learned back in July that the England cricketers love nothing more than a bit of quiet time so they can ease out the easel and draw their team-mates in classical poses with 'sounds of the rainforest' in the background. "It's just a bit of fun," captain Alastair Cook said after their latest efforts, which really were quite good. If by 'good', we mean 'comically appalling'.
What other things do cricketers do when it is raining during a Test match? Post your comments below...
- Sports & Recreation
- Kevin Pietersen