The Calvin Report: Walk? Only if the car runs out of petrol

Don't listen to the self-appointed guardians of Stuart Broad's conscience. These are the Ashes – hard, tense Test cricket with no prisoners taken

For someone depicted as the destroyer of childhood dreams, Stuart Broad took notoriety in his long, languid stride. The sanctimony of strangers, and the selective scrutiny of self-appointed guardians of his conscience, was an utter irrelevance on another burnished, breathless day at Trent Bridge.

Broad played a full part, with bat and ball when his critics would have had him appear on his home ground in a ball and chain. He received a standing ovation when zealots would have had him sent, in shameful silence, to solitary confinement.

When such arbiters of moral rectitude as Piers Morgan perch on their hind legs to pass judgement on a batsman's refusal to walk, and a professional sceptic like Richard Dawkins speaks about the England all-rounder with the fervour of someone who has lost his religion, we are in surreal territory.

There was something portentous about Broad's central role in what is likely to be the key moment of an insistently intense Test match. He found the edge of Michael Clarke's bat, but umpire Aleem Dar could not bring himself to give the Australia captain out before he had received confirmation the ball had carried to wicketkeeper Matt Prior.

Clarke, perhaps piqued by the indignity, promptly used up his side's final review. Despite the marginal nature of contact, it was futile. He trudged off, with a poignant glance across at England's exultant celebrations, to the sound of choreographed booing.

The tone of the Ashes summer has been set. Hawk-Eye has supplanted the human eye. Instinct and experience cannot compete with the binary certainties of computerised judgement. The decision review system (DRS) has mutated into a form of Russian Roulette, in which players are increasingly inclined to chance their luck and their nerve.

Umpires will be under unprecedented pressure to justify the received wisdom that, despite moments of manufactured confusion, between 92 and 93 per cent of their decisions are correct.

Ironically, given that Steve Waugh coined the phrase "mental degradation" to characterise his all-conquering Australia team's policy of invading the minds of opponents, the officials face burnout. The ICC elite panel of umpires has only four members who have the required neutrality to stand in an Ashes Test – Dar, his Trent Bridge colleague Kumar Dharmasena, Marais Erasmus and Tony Hill.

Good luck chaps. You will need it. If teams succeed in agitating for unlimited reviews, the powers that be in Dubai might as well exhume the concept of timeless Tests. The trial by technology will become repetitive, ponderous and ultimately self-defeating.

Broad, who is unlikely ever to be accused of being a shrinking violet, will be in his element. He milked the moment of walking when he finally edged James Pattinson to Brad Haddin after scoring 65 without adding to his reputation as a one-man international incident.

The Australians did not deign to applaud earlier, when he reached his half-century with a broadsword slash which sped between Shane Watson and Clarke, who were in "after you, Claude" mode at first and second slip respectively.

But the tribal elders knew the score. As Ian Healy, a wicketkeeper of legendary determination, volubility observed: "Walk in an Ashes Test match? Only if the car runs out of petrol."

The wider debate had the intellectual merit of those so-called Aussie Fanatiacs, gold and green encrusted exhibitionists whose idea of wit and wisdom is to greet a new England batsman with a concerted chorus of "quack, quack, quack".

Broad deserves to be judged on his own terms. No one can doubt his commitment – a full length dive to save a boundary late in the day, at the inevitable expense of his injured right shoulder proved that – but his self-confidence occasionally strays into self-regard.

When things go against him, especially with the ball in his hand, he has the air of an over-indulged adolescent. Tall, blond and perpetually pouting in adversity, it is tempting to typecast him as the Violet Elizabeth Bott of Test cricket.

But no one died. Nottingham was calm as it cooked on the hottest day of the year. This was Test cricket as it was meant to be. It was hard, tense, take-no-prisoners stuff. A collision of wills and cultures.

Every Australian wicket was greeted by a primitive howl of triumph, and a collective jig of delight which would not have been out of place in the shop-soiled cathedrals of football's Premier League. It was de rigeur for the successful bowler to punch the air and wheel around in an exultant arc.

Further outrages to the supposed spirit of cricket doubtlessly await, as the modern twist to an ancient rivalry becomes increasingly apparent. The worthies of the MCC might be best advised to prepare themselves for the outrage of the first Robot Dance to desecrate Lord's, in this week's Second Test.

There is something patronising about cricket's more vocal apologists claiming moral authority over other sports. Batsmen who refuse to walk are no different to scrum-halves who feed the ball into the second row of a set-piece, or strikers who palm the ball into the goal without a moment's hesitation. They are products of a hard trade in which weakness is preyed upon. It's Sporting Life as we know it, imperfect, improbable and utterly compelling.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada