On the Front Foot: Umpires need men in white coats but jury is still out on referrals
Sunday 23 August 2009
On all the evidence available at The Oval, it is about time umpires were saved from themselves to save the game. Asad Rauf is normally one of the most reliable of arbiters and made an outstanding decision to the first ball yesterday, when Jonathan Trott looked for all the world to have edged behind.
However, Rauf made two howlers in Australia's first innings, giving a catch and lbw that replays clearly showed were not out. Like many of the players, he was doubtless ruffled slightly by the occasion, and naturally his errors once again had the righteous – usually working for television – calling for the use of technology to determine dodgy decisions. The umpire review system will be with us forever from October.
It is being seen as a panacea which cures all the game's ills. Folk should be careful what they wish for. There is no certainty that either of the wronged parties on Friday, Marcus North and Stuart Clark, would have been reprieved since it is possible Australia would have already used up their two appeals on leg-before verdicts returned against Shane Watson and Mike Hussey. The trial system used in several series last year and earlier this year was flawed and caused delays.
Players were confused about how and when to use it, while several decisions made by the TV umpire were as contentious as the original verdict. We shall see but the jury, unlike the third umpire, will always be out on this one. Of more pertinent need for reform are line calls for no-balls. Both Andrew Strauss and Ian Bell may deserve to have been out for the faulty shots they played in England's first innings but replays showed they were the victims of no-balls because the bowler overstepped (Rauf and Billy Bowden missed one each). There can be no way batting sides can appeal these verdicts and the ICC and their cricket committee of former players would have been better advised sorting that one out.
Fours and sixes in 3D
It did not appear on your screens but the Fourth Test in Leeds was filmed in 3D. It was the first time a cricket match had been so shot and although Sky have no immediate plans for public screenings, it is clearly the way of the future. As in 3D films, for which special glasses are required, the ball will seem to jump out of the screen. The trouble, however, with showing England in 3D is that they might too often turn in two-dimensional performances.
Yorkshire pass screen test
The Oval's replay screen is not in the same league as those at Trent Bridge and Headingley. Yorkshire (they like to think big there) have made it clear that contrary to assertions in this column their screen is bigger than Nottinghamshire's. Stewart Regan, the county's chief executive, brandished the figures: 102.4 square metres. Lancashire and Durham need to come up with something bigger and better. Maybe in 3D.
Jimmy can't duck issue
The Jimmy Anderson batting saga is over. At last he has a duck in a Test innings. At the 55th time of asking he was dismissed without scoring, lbw to Ben Hilfenhaus on Friday, 23 innings short of AB De Villiers' all-time duckless record from the start of a career. Anderson then went wicketless in an innings for the 17th innings in his Test career, just 45 short of Wally Hammond's England record.
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