To the neutral observer, England might have seemed petulant and embittered last night. They were losing the Fourth Test by a long way but they had won a concession from the International Cricket Council that the policy of referrals in Tests would be immediately investigated.
Perhaps England were expressing a genuine grievance after a series of verdicts under the Decision Review System went against them. The one which counted and which began two days of claim, counterclaim and suspicion was made when Graeme Smith, South Africa's captain, was on 15 in his side's first innings.
It seems to be taken for granted that he edged the ball, though Smith, perfectly reasonably, denies it and the on-field umpire, Tony Hill, agreed with him. England cannot seem to overcome the fact that their review of that decision was struck down, partly because the third umpire, Daryl Harper, did not hear the alleged snick on his stump microphone.
England laid a formal complaint yesterday and oddly asked for the review (one of two they are allowed per innings), which they lost because of Harper's decision, to be reinstated. The ICC were never about to reply before South Africa's innings ended, rendering it null and void. But Haroon Lorgat, the chief executive of the ICC, said: "We have received a letter of complaint from the ECB and will launch a formal investigation into the exact circumstances surrounding the application of the Decision Review System after completion of the Johannesburg Test match."
England have always been wary of the DRS, and although they agreed to its use in this series, they are upset at what they see as Harper's inability to use it properly. They made no complaint when Paul Collingwood was reprieved (rightly) first ball in Cape Town and went on to save the match.
Giles Clarke, the chairman of the ECB, was scathing about the DRS, and England undoubtedly suffered yesterday as four more reviews went against them. "We're all human, you're allowed to be aggrieved and frust-rated," said Ryan Sidebottom, the bowler denied Smith's crucial wicket. "We may have been affected by it but you have to get on with it."
Clarke intends to pursue the issue as far as he can. England were alone in voting against the DRS at the ICC last year, but he may think he now has more ammunition. Earlier in the day, the ICC match referee, Roshan Maha-nama said: "There have also been suggestions that Mr Harper had turned down the feed volume. The volume on the third umpire's feed, throughout the series, had been configured to optimise the quality of the audio, by both a South Africa Broadcasting Corporation head engineer and the ICC technical advisor.
"If the audio level had been increased above its optimum level, distortion on the audio feed would have occurred and the feed might not have given a clear indication of the true sound." England fervently disagree with that version of events. But the way the match is going they will soon be able to take their bat home.Reuse content