Ponting decision keeps Koertzen on his toes

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The Independent Online

Poor old Rudi Koertzen. There you are, standing in your 100th Test and with everything going swimmingly, when along comes one of those moments to make even the game's most experienced umpire wonder whether the job is all it is cracked up to be.

Anderson bowls, the delivery swings in, Ponting – bat close to pad – loses balance as he tries to play to leg and the ball is in Strauss's hands at second slip. The bowler wants lbw, the fielders plead for a catch and Koertzen has to make a decision.

Now, the 60-year-old official from Knysna in South Africa's Cape Province hasn't got where he is today by rushing into decisions. In fact, even when Rudi does not need to think twice before sending a batsman on his way he still raises that fateful finger so slowly you wonder whether it will ever get to the horizontal, never mind the near-vertical.

Yesterday at Lord's, with nearly 30,000 pairs of eyes on him, Koertzen went for a walk and then a chat. Clearly convinced that Ponting had inside-edged the ball on to his pad, he wanted to know whether the catch had carried on the full to Strauss – and when square-leg colleague Billy Doctrove could not help, TV umpire Nigel Llong was brought into the debate.

The end result was that Koertzen sent Australia's captain on his way, and before a decidedly miffed Ponting had reached the away dressing room, TV pictures were proving that he had not hit the ball with his bat but was probably lbw anyway.

So roll on October when the referral system comes into play for all Tests? That should sort out little problems like this one. Well, maybe not, actually.

It turns out that, despite what most people assume, Llong could have said yesterday that although the catch was clean it did not seem as though Ponting had made contact with his bat. Current legislation does not limit the third official to commenting only on the legality of catches.

''As far as that type of incident goes, not too much will change from October,'' said the International Cricket Council's head of operations, Dave Richardson. ''But the new system will probably enable them to chat to a greater extent and go on to talk about the lbw situation.

''They could not talk about lbw on this occasion, although, of course, conversations between the third umpire and the on-field officials are confidential.''

As of October, batsmen and fielding captains will be allowed to appeal against decisions up to a maximum of two incorrect challenges per innings. But if the umpires have decided to refer the matter themselves – as happened yesterday – players will not then be able to query the verdict.

On top of that, the third official should have access to most if not all TV technological aids, which was not the case yesterday.

The bottom line is that the right decision was probably reached, albeit for the wrong reason – and Koertzen will remain one of the game's most popular umpires with players.

It is also a safe bet that only the second official, after the now retired Jamaican Steve Bucknor, to stand in 100 Tests will not change his mind about the use of technology.

''We are embracing technology at the right time,'' he said before completing his century. ''The umpire decision review system will help umpires to make more correct decisions, which are already in the mid 90s percentage wise.

''Technology has taken cricket to every house and to a new level and it has brought umpires under more scrutiny because everyone off the field now knows almost instantly if a correct decision has been made.''