ARMED police were called on Thursday — the final day of Surrey versus Middlesex in the County Championship — after a crossbow bolt was fired onto the field, resulting in the abandoning of play on the afternoon of the fourth day.
Police believe the 12-inch-long metal-tipped bolt travelled around 800 metres before coming to ground about ten yards from the pitch. The incident took place at 4:20 p.m., during the 69th over of Middlesex’s second innings.
The players alerted the umpires, Michael Gough and Paul Baldwin, who acted quickly to take the players off the field, a number of them sprinting towards the changing room.
Fifteen minutes later, the Metropolitan Police had been made aware of the incident at which point officers, including firearm officers, made their way to the Kia Oval.
It was at this point that an announcement was made across the PA system at the ground for spectators and those in the open to “find cover”. Another announcement followed, urging people to move inside.
A full search of the ground was carried out by police and around 30 security staff. The game was abandoned at 5:05 p.m. by which time around 1,000 spectators had been informed that they could leave.
The Metropolitan Police believe the bolt was fired from outside the ground, though they are unsure as to whether the bolt was fired deliberately or whether it was targeted at The Oval. They have, at this stage, stated that the incident is not being treated as terrorism-related.
Richard Gould, Surrey’s chief executive, speaking after play was officially called off, said: “It had a pointed end and stuck in the turf when it crossed the outfield and landed.
“We are investigating reports that there was a noise on the roof of the OCS Stand but we haven’t been able to get up there to investigate whether it was the projectile ricocheting off the roof or a separate projectile. It is the sort of thing that could easily have been fired some distance from outside the ground if it came from a crossbow. It could very easily have killed someone.
“We may never find out if it was a deliberate act, but in these heightened times these sorts of acts are wholly irresponsible.
“People should not feel threatened in this way. If it is more than mischief-making, then we need to find the perpetrators. We will review our security arrangements but threats can be so wide-ranging.
“There is probably no way of securing against this type of incident if it was fired from outside. We always try and provide the safest type of environment but it can be very difficult to stop this kind of act.”
Surrey’s captain, Gareth Batty, who was fielding 25 yards away from where the arrow landed, said: “It was a pretty tasty arrow with a proper metal end. 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 quickly. 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.”