A Cricket Discipline Commission (CDC) Panel suggested that the Arctic Monkeys concert that took place at the Ageas Bowl the previous month had a “considerable impact on the grass on the square” and noted a comment by Simon Lee, the head groundsman, which suggested that he had been instructed to prepare a pitch offering “seam movement”.
Wayne Noon, the match referee, marked the pitch as “below average”, which was deemed a breach of pitch regulations, unless Hampshire could demonstrate that they “actively sought to prepare the best quality cricket pitch that [they] could for the match”.
The CDC’s report described Lee as “a highly competent groundsman of considerable integrity” but concluded: “The club has not demonstrated that it is more likely than not that, acting reasonably, it sought to prepare the best quality cricket pitch for the match.”
Anthony McGrath, Essex’s coach, said immediately after the game: “The pitch wasn’t ideal. I don’t think there was any intent there but it hasn’t made it a fair battle between bat and ball. I don’t want to criticise it strongly but anyone who was here knows it wasn’t ideal for first-class cricket.”
James Vince, Hampshire’s captain, said: “The pitch didn’t play quite how we wanted it to or expected it to but it was the same for both teams… you needed a bit of luck on a pitch that was seaming around a bit, but in the end they coped with conditions better than we did.”
Hampshire’s title hopes were ended last week when Surrey secured 21 points in their win over Warwickshire but they can still finish second ahead of Essex. They now sit 34 points behind Essex, with the two counties due play each other at Chelmsford on September 19.
They have also fined £5000, and been handed a suspended 20-point penalty for the 2024 Championship season, which will only become active if they commit a further breach of the pitch regulations in the Championship before the end of next season.
Hampshire have 14 days in which to make an appeal and are expected to release a club statement shortly.