A Hawke who preyed on poor umpires

In the Outfield
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The Independent Online

Umpires have never had it easy. It may be scant consolation to the estimable David Shepherd, but having your human frailties exposed by television is surely a minor irritant considering what the men in white coats once had to suffer. Hawkeye can be nothing compared to Hawkey.

Lord Hawke, that is, Yorkshire captain, MCC president, England selector, all-round cricketing patriarch. Back in December 1894, his lordship was prominent in a meeting at Lord's which had been convened to discuss umpiring. A good deal of dissatisfaction, he said, had been expressed in the past two or three years. Lord Hawke proposed that the umpires' fee be raised from £5 to £6, that the county captains nominate the best umpires and "at the end of the season strike out those who gave bad decisions" (bad news for Shep there, then).

From the floor, Billy Murdoch, the Australian who had become captain of Sussex, pointed out that it was desirable to provide a separate room for umpires. "At present they go into the players' room and are subjected to all sorts of remarks and sometimes abuse. No matter how honest an umpire, and I believe they're all honest, they can hardly fail to be affected."

What neither Lord Hawke nor anybody else has suggested is increasing the number of umpires on the field. Forget the boys in the television replay room, who are clearly mere ancillaries. If there were two more men on the field to look at specific areas at various times ­ bat-pad catches, say, or, to be topical, no-balls ­ errors would surely be reduced.

Nor is this as revolutionary as it sounds. A brief look through Official Rules of Sports and Games shows cricket to be grossly under-officiated. Baseball, for instance, has an umpire-in-chief and three base umpires, lacrosse has three refs plus a chief bench official and timekeeper.If Lord Hawke had been enough of a visionary to come up with this a century ago, Hawkeye may have been redundant before it was invented.

Loss leader Marcus

It is clear what Marcus Trescothick must do if he wishes to serve England's cause: stop scoring Test centuries. With his 120 at Old Trafford the other day, he now has two to his credit, both of them sterling efforts. And what has happened in the match on each occasion? England have lost, that's what.

This is an unenviable record, and must make him wonder if it is worth all the time at the crease. It is 83 years since an England batsman's first two Test centuries both ended with him losing. In the case of George Gunn, Trescothick will not be heartened to learn, they were to be his only two. Gunn scored 119 in the First Test at Sydney in December 1907 (his debut) and 122 not out at the same venue in the Fifth Test, and England lost by 49 runs and two wickets.

Trescothick will assuredly make more hundreds for England, and he has some way to go before equalling the record for what might be called losing hundreds. The great Jack Hobbs reached three figures in Tests 15 times in all, and the side finished defeated six times (though they won on seven occasions). England lost in the case of six of Allan Lamb's 14 hundreds, winning just four times.

Some batsmen's centuries, of course, have a more beneficial effect. From a total of 22, Colin Cowdrey won 10 and lost one, Ken Barrington won eight and lost one from 20, Graham Gooch won eight and lost three from 20, David Gower won six and lost four from 18, Ian Botham won eight and lost one from 14, an unsurprisingly handsome ratio.

Two players stand out in regard to losing hundreds. Both Wally Hammond and Geoff Boycott scored 22 Test centuries. Hammond finished on the winning side nine times and Boycott 10. More crucially, when either of them scored a hundred England never lost.

Weighty book case

Lest the scorers think they are forgotten ­ and lest the England and Wales Cricket Board assume that Outfield has forgotten them ­ a case has come up. Although it was conducted in the USA, it might be considered as a precedent.

The ECB, you might recall, were anxious to bring county scorers into line by issuing them with complicated legal contracts which effectively spelled out that they had better watch what they were doing with their scores or else. The contracts prevent them from dispensing scores (and what can be gleaned from them) to outside parties.

The ECB claim that, in conjunction with the Press Association (to whom scorers electronically relay the county scores), they own the copyright. Thus scorers are to be stopped from checking scores for publication in Wisden Cricketers' Almanack, a draconian edict at best.

But the copyright issue is far from clear-cut. In America there was a fuss about basketball information being sent to hand-held pagers while the matches were still being played. The National Basketball Association objected. Tough, decreed the courts. "Reproductions of fact are not protected," ruled their honours. "NBA games lack an author or underlying script and must be open to copying by competitors if fans are to be attracted."

Wasim's quick query

Nothing was more eyebrow-raising in the Second npower Test at Old Trafford than the fastest recorded delivery. This was, according to the Freeserve Speedster, delivered by Wasim Akram at 94.6mph. Considering that this was not only into the wind but faster than anything the 35-year-old Wasim had bowled in his pomp, questions were asked.

The figure was wrong. The Speedster is suffering. Apparently, its operators are worried that outside hackers are interfering with its radar. Technology, you see. Impossible to trust. Any umpire will tell you that Wasim never gets above 84mph.