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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement