Cricket: Absurdity of third umpire's obscured view

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THIS WAS not the first time that indisputable electronic evidence had not been available to the third umpire. The England side were certain that when Jacques Kallis had made 12, he had been quickly caught low down in the gulley by Chris Adams off Phil Tufnell.

It was all too fast for the bowler's umpire, Rudi Koetzen, to be certain the ball had not bounced. He asked his colleague at square leg, Steve Bucknor, who called for the third umpire to decide. The host broadcasters, the SABC, had three shots of the incident, all of which were inconclusive.

But BSkyB, who are taking the SABC coverage, have two extra cameras of their own. One of these saw the incident perfectly and Adams had taken the catch cleanly about four inches off the ground. Yet this evidence was not available to the third umpire.

The International Cricket Council must now take action. At the time, I was sitting next to Gary Franses, the executive producer of Channel Four's cricket coverage, and he assured me that it would be a simple matter to make sure this extra evidence was instantly available to the host broadcaster and therefore the third umpire.

In future this must be done to prevent the absurd situation we have now from recurring. The third umpire had no alternative but to give Kallis the benefit of the doubt when minutes later it was clear beyond doubt to everyone that it was the wrong decision.

At the start of January in Sydney, Michael Slater was run out by Dean Headley's throw early in Australia's second innings in the fifth Test against England. Because the wicket keeper was in the way and the third umpire could not actually see the bat at the moment the bails came off, he found in favour of Slater.

Circumstantial evidence made it abundantly clear that Slater was out, and if he had been given, it would not have been impossible for England to have gone on to win the match and draw the series. As a result of this, efforts are now being made to ensure that ground authorities have their own square leg cameras in position on both sides of the wicket for big matches.

If Kallis had been given out now, South Africa would have been 48 for 3 and 50 for 4 soon afterwards when Andy Caddick removed Daryll Cullinan's middle stump. Who is to say that South Africa might not have been bowled out for less than a hundred and England would have gone on to win?

It is the clear duty of the ICC to insist on the link-up of all television cameras so that all relevant pictures can be seen when the third umpire is asked to adjudicate. The man is made to look an awful ass if a decision is given and all the world can see that it is the wrong one.

It was a great pity that such a fine game of cricket as this Second Test match was developing into, should have been allowed to have become distorted like this. It was especially bad luck, too, on England, who have picked themselves up so splendidly after the disaster of Johannesburg and it does, of course, speak volumes for the developing partnership of Duncan Fletcher and Nasser Hussain at the centre of affairs.