Cricket: Healy extends two hands of sportsmanship

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The Independent Online
It could so easily have been 14 for 4. And perhaps if it had not been for a timely pre-play appeal for sportsmanship by MCC secretary Roger Knight, then England's Graham Thorpe could well have been back in the dressing room in the Second Test against Australia by 11.34am having faced just one ball.

In fact Knight's brief speech was directed at the crowd. But judging by the way Australia's fiercely competitive wicketkeeper Ian Healy reacted after the first delivery of Glenn McGrath's seventh over, the message appeared to have been taken on board by both teams as well. It certainly drew a burst of applause from umpire David Shepherd MBE.

Knight made his unprecedented speech 10 minutes before the start of play. "I would like to ask for your support in preserving the traditional atmosphere of sportsmanship at this ground," Knight had said, "and to give enthusiastic support to your team and to acknowledge good play on both sides."

When Thorpe edged that first ball, which a diving Healy appeared to catch cleanly before rolling over, some of the Australian slips went up for the catch. Healy's immediate reaction was to run towards umpire Shepherd, who was making his way to his colleague Srini Venkataraghavan at square- leg to see if the ball had carried.

"Anyone who sees that on television will see how close it was," Shepherd said later. "You needed a slow-motion replay to sort it out. My own instincts were that it wasn't quite right, so I went over to Venkat to confirm that.

"Before he could tell me anything Healy had run over and said: `Shep, several of the boys think I caught that, I'm not so sure myself.' In other words, he was not claiming it. I thanked him. "He then asked me: `So what are you going to give then Shep?' I looked at him and said: `Not out'. It was the right thing for Healy to do. That is what cricket is all about, and that is why I clapped him."

Healy explained: "I wasn't sure. The slips were split half and half. I think it was the fairest decision. When I am not sure I am happy to go with the umpire. And it was nice to be applauded by an umpire.

"I've only ever applauded once before and that was when Aravinda De Silva scored a beautiful hundred here in the Benson and Hedges Cup final in 1995." It may only have been 92 minutes, but it was certainly cricket out there yesterday.