LONDON (AFP) – Police evacuated The Oval cricket ground in London on Thursday (Aug 31) after a bizarre arrow attack halted play in the match between Surrey and Middlesex.
The arrow, reported to have a metal tip, landed near the Surrey fielder Ollie Pope and close to the pitch during the County Championship fixture.
The players alerted the umpires, who promptly halted play, with fielders and batsmen running to the safety of the changing rooms before a crowd of more than 1,000 spectators was advised to take cover.
No one was injured and, according to a statement issued by the Metropolitan Police, it is believed the arrow was fired from outside The Oval in Kennington, south London.
“Police were made aware at 16.35hrs (11.35pm Singapore time) on Thursday, Aug 31 of reports that an arrow or crossbow bolt had been loosed into The Oval cricket ground,” said the police statement.
“Officers are on scene. The ground is in the process of a controlled evacuation.
“There are no reported injuries.” The statement added: “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.” Pictures soon emerged on social media of Paul Baldwin, one of the match umpires, holding the pink-coloured bolt.
'NOT TREATED AS TERRORISM-RELATED'
There have been several high-profile terror incidents in Britain in recent months, including one at London Bridge – just a couple of miles from The Oval – on June 3 which killed eight members of the public and saw the three attackers shot dead by police.
Scotland Yard, however, said of the firing of an arrow into The Oval: “At this stage, the incident is not being treated as terrorism-related.”
The umpires eventually decided the First Division match, already into its fourth and final day, should be abandoned as a draw with neither side on top.
“Players have left the field after a crossbow bolt landed on the square,” said Middlesex’s Twitter feed.
“Understandably, after the earlier suspension of play, the game at The Oval has been abandoned with the game ending as a draw.”
Earlier, Surrey cricketer Stuart Meaker tweeted: “Well... we have just officially gone off the field because a metal tipped arrow just landed on the pitch!!”
Meanwhile, Surrey chief executive Richard Gould told BBC Radio London: “The umpires took immediate action because they saw it fall, brought the players off the pitch and we then ensured that all the supporters were moved to a position of safety.
“We always focus on safety in the first instance and remove people from any potential risk. We don’t know whether this projectile was placed deliberately or whether it was simply fired by somebody from a distance and we just happened to be the landing spot, so we don’t even know necessarily that it was done on purpose.”
Middlesex and England batsman Nick Compton, who was in the middle on 28 not out when play was halted, joked on Twitter: “Sir Robin of Loxley (Robin Hood) has just arrived at the Oval.”
The match was stopped after the first ball of the 69th over with Middlesex 214 for seven in their second innings and John Simpson 88 not out.