Comment: Referrals are being introduced by stealth

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The Independent Online

Conditions favoured the bowlers at Edgbaston this morning. When it was not raining, the air was moist but warm. The combination encouraged swing and they knew it.

But England’s trio of performers did not immediately do their stuff. They might have been affected by the lassitude of their batting colleagues but they failed to make the South Africans play enough. For instance, Jimmy Anderson had a six over spell, which included two maidens and conceded 16 runs – regulation stuff it would seem from the figures but too often the ball went harmlessly by, the ball swinging but too far away to disturb the batsmen. Nor was he alone.



If England’s bowlers had been actors getting their lines wrong in this fashion the prompt would have demanded overtime. It took them 15 overs to remove the tourists’ nightwatchman Paul Harris, who was stoic in defence of his wicket but might have been removed earlier with a more accurate exhibition of the bowlers’ skills.



There had been more umpiring confusion early in the proceedings when Neil McKenzie appeared to have been caught low at second slip by Andrew Strauss. The batsman stood his ground, as if daring the umpire to raise his finger.



The umpires, rather than making a decision, called for the third umpire. Cameras showed, as usual, that the ball might have hit the ground. Or it might not. McKenzie had to stay, Strauss was mildly embarrassed for having claimed the catch.



Everybody concerned was within their rights but the game looked daft again. A system of referrals is being introduced by stealth.

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