Fans, players and staff were feeling the effects of sweltering 37-degree heat as safety concerns emerged during England’s first one-day international against South Africa at Chester-le-Street.
On a day of record-breaking temperatures, the soaring heat was taking its toll on the Royal London Series opener, with England ODI debutant Matthew Potts leaving the field after a four-over spell after feeling the effects of the oppressive conditions.
“He was struggling with the heat a bit to be honest. I’m sure it is not how he wanted his debut to go, but he wasn’t feeling quite right at all,” said captain Jos Buttler after England’s 62-run defeat.
“He went off to cool down but I don’t think he ever quite felt well enough to come back on.”
While regular drinks breaks, complete with ice packs, wet towels and parasols, helped keep the show on the road for the rest of the players in the middle, it was a different story around the ground.
While the game was a 16,000 sell-out there were hundreds of empty seats as the Proteas built their first innings score, with scores of fans leaving the venue early and others heading to shaded areas at the back of the stands in search of respite. Many were seen lying down in gaps between the stands and others against walls.
Host county Durham reacted by setting up additional ‘cool rooms’ indoors, though fans were required to queue for access. A number of supporters were also seen fainting, with medical services on site to assist.
With long lines also building around the designated water refill stations, numerous Durham staff were despatched around the ground with gallon containers of water to help. Workers were also being monitored to check that breaks were being scheduled and that those indoors had sufficient ventilation.
A spokesperson for the England and Wales Cricket Board said at the innings break: “Given today’s extreme heat, we are keeping the welfare of spectators and players under constant review.
“We are providing regular information to the crowd about keeping hydrated and finding shade, and have brought in additional support to help anyone who is unwell. Extra drinks breaks have been added for the players. We continue to monitor the situation closely.”
The International Cricket Council is responsible for player safety, starting with the on-field umpires and their ongoing conversations with the teams, and leading to the match referee.