Cricket: The test of telly

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UNTIL Saturday afternoon I had always believed that the umpire's place was on the field and not deep in the pavilion surrounded by television cameras. By teatime, I had been converted to the whole idea of a third umpire, with one big reservation.

The drama and excitement of the day was considerably increased when the attempted stumpings of Robin Smith and Neil Foster were referred to Chris Balderstone sitting on the top balcony of the pavilion.

The cameras showed Balderstone looking intently as three replays flashed across the screen in front of him. They then went to the batsman waiting with his future in the balance, to Ian Healy, the executioner, and to the crowd holding its collective breath.

Finally, we focused on Mervyn Kitchen, the umpire, who after 85 riveting seconds received by walkie-talkie the message that Smith was out. Later, the same captivating process revealed that Foster had grounded his bat in the nick of time.

Another good reason for the third umpire was put to me: that much of the aggro on the field is due to what players perceive to be bad decisions.

If television could eliminate doubt with run-outs and stumpings, it could only be a good thing. But if the third umpire can see an lbw incident a few times, he may be in a better position to decide on that too.

Taken to its logical conclusion, therefore, the third umpire would make all those decisions. The umpires on the field would then only have to count to six, signal extras, fours, sixes and other such details. Logical yes, but acceptable no.