A County Championship cricket match at the Oval was abandoned over safety fears after a crossbow bolt landed within feet of the players on the pitch.

The 12 to 18-inch arrow was reportedly fired from outside of the ground, causing Surrey and Middlesex players to quickly exit the field of play. No one was injured in the incident, but “it could very easily have killed someone,” the Surrey chief executive, Richard Gould said according to the Guardian newspaper.

The yellow and red metal tipped projectile landed around 10 metres from the strip, and within inches of Surrey fielder, Rory Burns. It occurred at 4.20pm, near the end of the final day of four, when umpires urgently ushered nervous players from the field, with spectators urged to take cover inside.

A controlled evacuation of the ground took place, with police and armed response teams arriving shortly after the incident. The game was declared a draw as players gave statements to police and left the ground by 6pm.

Investigations into where the shot came from are focused on the north-east of the Oval, which has a capacity of 24,500, due to the direction it landed, as well as Middlesex batsman Nick Compton pointing towards the OCS Stand (pictured).

Players claim to have heard the whistling sound of the arrow flying through the air, and there were also some mentions of further noises, potentially of other projectiles hitting the stands, that were heard at the north-east 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, the Guardian reports. “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.”

Gould added: “We do not know if it was fired deliberately or if it was fired and just landed on our green space. It’s a lightweight projectile but one which looked as if it could have travelled 800 metres.”

Metropolitan Police said there have been no arrests and are retaining “an open mind as to motive.”

Image: jguk