Cricket / Sixth Test: Why bad luck always hounds the losers

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ONE OF the main complaints of England sides in recent years has been that English umpires, in doing their best not to be seen as biased in favour of the home side, have succeeded in giving the majority of those awkward decisions which might have gone either way to the opposition.

They will have no such complaints from The Oval, for it looked on the final day of the series of six Tests for the Ashes as though two decisions which perhaps should have gone Australia's way went in favour of England.

However many times one looked at the replay of the caught behind decision against Michael Slater, and from whatever angle, the ball appeared to come off the batsman's arm guard. Allan Border, the Australian captain, may also have been unlucky to have been given caught behind off Angus Fraser soon after lunch.

Yet in the best-regulated of circles which, of course, Test cricket should be, luck will often play an important part. Illogically, perhaps, it is usually predictable, for so often it seems to favour the better side. How often do you hear a winning side complain that they have had bad luck?

This may be simply a variation on the golfer Gary Player's remark when acknowledging the presence of luck. 'The funny thing is that the more I practice the luckier I get.' Which is the same thing as saying that the better one is playing the more likely one is to have the lucky breaks.

For the first time in a year England have played compelling cricket throughout a Test match. Was it therefore a coincidence that for the first time in 12 months the players can have no complaint that luck was against them? Or was it simply that at the very last gasp Ted Dexter managed to persuade Jupiter, Mars and Venus into the right positions?