'Common sense has to prevail. Just use the technology'
Monday 10 December 2007
Things are getting messy and complicated. Two contentious decisions went against England yesterday, both of them potentially match-changing. Both might equally have threatened their much re-iterated intention to take it on the chin, which is threatening to knock off from the top of the Cricket Platitudes Chart, after several years at No 1, their frequently expressed desire to put it in the right areas.
In the first example Kevin Pietersen was given out caught at slip in confusing circumstances after a juggling act by the Sri Lankan second slip, Chamara Silva, which was ended by the alert intervention of the first slip, Kumar Sangakkara. The ball almost certainly but not definitely hit the ground as Silva made his first grab in front of him.
The umpires consulted. Daryl Harper eventually raised his finger. Having begun his walk from the crease, Pietersen suddenly stopped, the replays on the screens confirming the doubts. Harper again raised the digit, which is like the hangman having to pull the rope twice.
The second incident was towards the end of the day, when Alastair Cook was lbw to the second new ball. Or rather in the parlance where doubt intrudes, he was adjudged lbw. Harper was again the umpire and, in the parlance again, the ball would have struggled to hit another set of stumps. Cook walked without demur. But it was an awful decision.
Michael Vaughan, the England captain, was mystified by the need for the first decision, complaisant about the second. It seemed to confuse the issues further.
"Common sense has to prevail in those kind of instances if you're not 100 per cent sure," he said. "If you are 100 per cent sure I find it very difficult to believe. You should really just use the technology that's available. The replays proved it hit the ground. It's disappointing but we just have to get on with it."
As for Pietersen halting in his steps, Vaughan conceded: "It doesn't look good, but what would you do? You're talking about high-level sport here. A guy has been given out, he said he clearly saw it touched the ground. It's a tough environment we play in, everyone is desperate to do well. The guy at the non-striker's end, Alastair Cook thought it had bounced. They are within their rights to ask."
Actually, they are not within their rights to ask. Being given out by the umpire is not a basis for negotiation.
Yet of Cook's dismissal to a ball pitching marginally outside leg stump (which itself precludes a leg before decision) and swinging further Vaughan said: "Those decisions happen. I don't have any problems with that. You can get things like that wrong, that's fine."
In the context of the day this seemed absurd. It has always been accepted that batsmen must accept the umpires' decision. In the past few years this has been somewhat compromised by the general refusal of batsmen to walk even if they know they are out.
The justification is that the umpires should make the decision and that poor decisions will be accepted with equanimity. Lbw appeals cannot be referred, catches can be only if both umpires are unsighted. Jeff Crowe, the match referee, said he would not be disciplining Pietersen, who was involved in a similar incident at Lord's last summer when the decision was overturned just before he left the field. He had been confused.
Then there is the umpire concerned. Harper's reputation preceded him. In discussions before play a couple of reporters discussed the ratio of Harper's incorrect decisions to those of his colleague, Aleem Dar. The consensus was three or four to one. He made a cracking start.
Shot of the Day
Michael Vaughan was back to his best yesterday, taking the game to the opposition and striking the ball sweetly. His best shot was a clip through wide mid-on off the bowling of Chaminda Vaas. There was very little wrong with the ball and everything about the stroke was right. It raced away for four.
Ball of the Day
After the first hour of play the pitch offered no help to the seamers and Dilhara Fernando should have had Alastair Cook out for eight. The delivery left him off the seam, found the edge and travelled at a catchable height to slip, where Mahela Jayawardene grassed it.
Moment of the Day
It has to be the dismissal of Kevin Pietersen. That or Stuart Broad being presented with his England cap on Test debut. Pietersen's controversial dismissal will raise the topic of technology being used to help umpires. It is to be hoped that the game remains the same as it is and umpiring continues to improve.
Stephen Brenkley and Angus Fraser discuss today's play at independent.co.uk/thetest
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