Cricket: Players told to respect umpire

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The Independent Online
THIS WAS not just an unhappy match for England because they lost, yet again, at Lords, to South Africa by a huge margin. It was also an unhappy and discreditable game from the point of view of the way in which cricket is developing with players from both sides increasingly making a habit of being unable to accept the umpire's word.

Mark Ramprakash's dissent was clear for all the world to see when he was given out caught behind in the first innings. He may not have been out and the ball may have hit his shirt and not the inside edge. That is not the point. The umpire's decision is, and always has been, final. And, one hopes, will remain so. We saw Ramprakash mouth words at the Australian umpire Darrell Hair, who reported him to Javed Burki, the match referee and he was fined pounds 850 and given a suspended suspension of one Test match.

Unfortunately, this episode did nothing to dissuade some of the others from similar protests on the fourth and final day. The most culpable was the captain, Alec Stewart who, as the years go by, has found it harder and harder to leave the crease without a silent protest.

Stewart drove at an outswinger from Jacques Kallis and was caught behind. He stood his ground in disbelief, shook his head and then, when he eventually began the walk back to the pavilion, he repeatedly looked over his shoulder at the big screen hoping for the replay which might have justified his go-slow.

Three overs later Nasser Hussain played half forward to Lance Klusener with his bat behind his pad. The ball hit the pad first and then the bat as it came through. It looked a good decision from Mr Hair but Hussain waited longer than he should have done.

Allan Donald was just as guilty as the Englishmen when George Sharp refused to give Hussain out, caught off bat and pad at short leg in his last over before lunch. The replay showed what a good decision it was and yet Donald spun round with disbelief and covered his face with his hands.

It is a dreadful reflection on contemporary cricketers that they refused to accept the umpire's word or, in their dissenting agreement, try and make the umpire look foolish. It is also a damaging reflection on those who orchestrate the side from the dressing-room.

If match referees do not become a good deal tougher over their reaction to dissent it will soon descend to open warfare in the middle.

At the end of this match Mr Burki has said that he wants to meet with the captains and the managers before the third Test next week at Old Trafford. I very much hope he will not mince his words. Some of the behaviour at Lord's has been disgraceful.