To review or not to review, that is the testing question
Among the most hallowed of all tenets in cricket is the state of the pitch. After all these years, nobody can quite bring themselves to admit that it is by and large rubbish.
Nobody of sound mind would have foretold that 16 wickets would have fallen on the first day of the third Test between Pakistan and England, while 204 runs were accrued. The surface looked benign, it was benign.
It was all in the batsmen's minds (as well as their debatable methods) and what was in their minds above all else was the decision review system. First of all, they are supposed to deal with the ball. When they have failed to do this satisfactorily, they have to decide what to do.
To review or not to review, that is the question, whether 'tis nobler in the mind, or whether your mates will think you a complete cad if you go upstairs and are then immediately despatched. What a day it was in Dubai, all of Pakistan gone by mid-afternoon, more than half of England by the evening.
"It was probably good watching for the neutral, pretty nerve-racking for the players," said Jimmy Anderson, who together with Stuart Broad, knocked over Pakistan's top order in the first hour of play.
"The review system gets the decisions right in the end. It creates more drama throughout the day but from a bowler's point of view it can be frustrating. On Hawk-Eye I had two identical balls and one was out and one was not out. It's part of the game and we have just got to get on with it."
Or not get on with it, or not in a hurry. There were six reviews yesterday as well as a couple of referrals by the umpires for stumping appeals. Simon Taufel, the umpire of the year five years in succession, had two decisions overturned in the first 10 overs of the match.
He had not umpired in a Test match since November. Perhaps he was short of match practice. If it can affect the players, the DRS can undoubtedly affect the officials. They know because the technology has by now confirmed it so often that the ball is hitting the stumps much more often than was assumed for more than a century.
Mohsin Khan, Pakistan's coach, said: "I am very happy with the system. One bad decision can change the whole sport. You can lose a match, you can lose a series. DRS is going well, I'm totally in favour of it."
So was Anderson despite the apparent perversities. "You have days and series where things don't go your way, then you have other series when you get dropped four times and get hundreds. It's just swingabouts and part of the game we have to deal with."
There were nine lbws during the day, bringing the total to 35 in the series. The record for any series is 43 and with hawkeye on the prowl that must be in danger.
History is against Pakistan winning the match. Not since 1907 has a side been out for a double-figure score in the first innings of a Test match and gone on to win – when England made 76 against South Africa at Headingley.
The similarity yesterday was that Pakistan, having won the toss and decided to bat in pursuit a 3-0 victory, played as though it was Headingley. And so did England. It was great fun. And the pitch can only get worse. Maybe.
Facts: In figures
35 Leg before wicket dismissals so far, the most there have been in a three-Test series. The record could go as the most in any series is 43
3.00 Ian Bell's series average against Saeed Ajmal: 12 runs, out 4 times.
9.8 Kevin Pietersen's series average, five innings in.
10.2 Eoin Morgan's series average so far, after five innings.
27.60 The combined batting average, so far this series, of Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell and Eoin Morgan, England's 4, 5 and 6. Combined career Test average: 126.69.
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