Play between Sussex and Middlesex in the County Championship at The Oval abandoned after a crossbow bolt was fired into the ground from outside the stadium
The usually serene world of County Championship cricket was jolted on Thursday when Surreys match with Middlesex at the Oval was abandoned because a crossbow bolt was fired on to the field of play.
The arrow, which measured around 12 to 18 inches, is thought to have been fired from outside the ground and landed within feet of the players. No one was injured but the Surrey chief executive, Richard Gould, said it could very easily have killed someone.
At 4.20pm with the match meandering to a draw on the final day (of four), the projectile (which was red and yellow in colour) landed about 10 metres from the pitch, and close to the Surrey fielder, Rory Burns. It had a pointed metal tip. The umpires swiftly took the concerned players from the field and spectators were encouraged to take cover inside.
Police were onsite within 15 minutes and the armed response team joined soon after, before a controlled evacuation of the ground took place. By 6pm, the players who had given statements to police were leaving the ground, with a draw declared.
It is unknown where exactly it was fired from the area of south London around the Oval is particularly densely built up but police investigations focused on the area north-east of the ground, because of the direction it landed in. While players said they heard the whistling sound of it flying in, the Middlesex batsman Nick Compton pointed towards the OCS Stand at the Vauxhall End of the ground, suggesting it had flown over the stand. There was some suggestion that further noises perhaps the rattle of another projectile hitting the stand were heard at that end of the ground.
It was a pretty tasty arrow with a proper metal end, said the Surrey captain, Gareth Batty, who was fielding about 25m away from where it landed. I did archery as a kid and that was not a normal archery arrow. The umpires dealt with it very well. There were no questions asked we went off very quickly. Someone saw it in flight, there was a noise when it landed but it happened so quick. It is a deadly weapon for sure, if it had hit someone it would have caused some serious damage. It just shows the world we live in.
Police continued to explore the area into the evening and conducted a thorough search of the ground. We do not know if it was fired deliberately or if it was fired and just landed on our green space. Its a lightweight projectile but one which looked as if it could have travelled 800 metres, said Gould. He confirmed that at a fixture of this size, around 30 security guards are at the Oval but it was nigh on impossible to guard against incidents like this, if the missile came from outside the ground.
A statement from the Metropolitan Police read: There are no reported injuries. At this early stage it is believed that the object came from outside of the ground. There have been no arrests. We retain an open mind as to motive. Enquiries continue.