Cricket: Umpire's inexperience exposed

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The Independent Online
PROBLEMS ARE coming thick and fast for the International Cricket Council at Lord's. Although not perhaps quite on the same level on the Richter Scale of these things as the obiter dicta of the Indian bookmaking fraternity. Mark Taylor's "catch" of Mike Atherton on Saturday has shown that third umpires need to have reached a certain level of experience

Mr Paul Angley, who is doing the job in Adelaide, has only stood in three first-class matches and his inexperience showed when this decision was referred to him. He was much too quick on the draw, making his mind up after seeing only two replays of the incident.

There were at least six available and the more one watched them, the more certain one became that it was impossible to decide whether or not it was a clean catch. An older hand would have waited to see what else the cameras had to offer and would probably have had another look at the slow-motion replays.

Mr Angley may have felt himself pressured to make a decision as quickly as he could. But to have done it so fast on such slender evidence must have involved guesswork which has been a feature of a few decisions made in the middle in this match.

Of course, the Australians are crying "Whingeing Poms"! The Aussies know what it feels like though, for at Old Trafford in 1997 Greg Blewett was given out caught at slip by Nasser Hussain and the replays then showed that the ball had bounced first.

In those far off days, the laws did not allow third umpires to adjudicate on catches. Had they been able to, Blewett would have been given the benefit of the doubt, just as Atherton should have on Saturday, although Taylor's "catch" was less clear-cut on the replays than Hussain's.

There is a view that this incident was a reflection of Australian skulduggery and that Taylor was not blameless. I do not hold with this for Australia's captain is not a cheat. He claimed the catch initially and said later to Ian Chappell that he thought he had got his fingers under the ball. There are occasions when fielders genuinely do not know and it was now left to the cameras, whose evidence was inconclusive.

This argument continues that it was this incident which was responsible for England's pathetic batting on the third morning. This, of course, is bunkum as a look at England's batting in this calendar year alone will show, when collapse has followed collapse.

This particular one of 7 for 40 fits in third place behind the 7 for 26 in Antigua in March and the 6 for 11 against South Africa at Lord's in June.

When Ramprakash was out in the morning, it looked as if England really would reap the advantage of playing seven batsmen. Crawley came in before Hick, which was a surprise, and after a lovely back-foot drive, he left a gap between bat and pad when defending against Glenn McGrath. Soon afterwards Hick failed to get to the pitch of a leg break when driving.

Between them they had amassed 13 runs and had been swept away in double quick time just when England needed a major contribution. Once again, two batsmen, whose temperament has always in doubt at this level, have again caved in when the pressure was extreme. Patience may soon run out.

The tail was, as always, ghastly and was summed up by Alan Mullally. Just before the first Test, he and Robert Croft had put on 36 for the last wicket to enable England to beat Queensland, and afterwards Mullally had spoken about the importance of tail-enders playing their part with the bat. How he must wish he had kept his mouth shut.

He came in now to face his fourth successive duck in this series and never for a single moment suggested that he would not achieve it. Dean Headley and Peter Such both found that their first balls were altogether far too straight for their well-being. If it had not been so sad, one would have laughed.