Mr. Bennett said he did not think it possible for another Test to be arranged at this stage, although captains Ian Chappell and Tony Greig indicated they would be in favour of it.
It is the first time in cricket history a Test has been abandoned because of vandalism. A Test in Karachi was called off after a riot.
Headingley groundsman Mr. George Cawthray said the covers had not been removed during the night and the vandals had crawled under the large canopy-type covers, which stood about 18 inches off the ground.
Police investigating the damage are linking it with a move to have a London criminal released from jail.
They found several slogans daubed in cream paint on the walls next to the main gates this morning.
The slogans said: “Free George Davis, Justice for George Davis, Sorry it had to be done.”
Davis, who police believe has IRA leanings, is serving a 20-year jail sentence in London for his part in an armed robbery in which a policeman was shot.
The damage to the pitch was discovered by Mr. Cawthray at 6.50 a.m. this morning when he removed the covers.
Ground staff immediately called the police and the Test umpires, Arthur Fagg and David Constant, to the ground.
The umpires took one look at the pitch and ruled it unfit for play.
Chappell, Greig, Mr. Bennett and England’s chairman of selectors, Mr. Alex Bedser, were summoned also, and the game was called off at 9 a.m.
A stunned crowd of several hundred who had gathered at the ground when the news broke on BBC radio at 8.30 a.m., listened in horror as Yorkshire country secretary, Mr. Joe Lister, made the announcement.
In a prepared statement, Mr. Lister said: “The rules state that the pitch shall not be changed during a match unless it becomes unfit for play and then only with the consent of both captains.
“The umpires having ruled the pitch unfit, the captains agreed that it was impossible to prepare a similar one and have accordingly abandoned the Test match.”
Chappell, Greig, Mr. Bennett and Mr. Bedser stood locked in grim discussion for 20 minutes before reaching the inevitable conclusion.
The only alternative pitch was the one Mr. Cawthray is preparing for the annual Roses match, Yorkshire v Lancashire, next week and this was moist from watering last night.
A 35-man team of police headed by Detective Superintendent Fred Smith has begun an investigation.
Superintendent Smith refused to name the police constable who was on nightwatchman duty at the ground from 9pm to 6.30 am.
But he said the constable had been interviewed by senior police officials.
The policeman was on patrol duty at the ground and had a supper break about 2am but did not leave the ground.
Superintendent Smith admitted it would have been easy for vandals to escape notice in the darkness unless the constable was standing next to the pitch area.
Police are interviewing local residents and garages and shops to try to trace whoever bought the oil. An empty shell motor oil can was found on the pitch area.
It’s also believed the pitch was defaced with a marlin spike.
Why pitch was sabotaged
LONDON, Aug. 19. Mr Peter Chappell, organiser of the “justice for Davis campaign,” warned in a statement today that the campaign is being directed “against property and will continue.”
The Test pitch at Headingley had been sabotaged “because more than a year of frustration has failed to get a proper inquiry into the jailings of George Davis.”
’We are all sorry for the disappointment this has caused thousands of cricket fans; but a man sitting 20 years for a crime he did not commit is far more important than a game of cricket.
’The responsibility for George Davis is borne by everyone in this country – everyone must realise that this case is their concern.”
Mr. Chappell’s statement went on: “We who know as a fact that George Davis is innocent cannot sit back and leave him in jail for a crime he did not commit.
’The case illustrates all that is wrong with our system of justice.
’We can only add that because George Davis is innocent our campaign must continue and to all the people to whom this causes inconvenience we can only say: how would you like to be in George Davis’s shoes in jail for 20 years for nothing?” – AAP.