Uneven decisions cloud outlook as umpires again switch off lights early

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The Independent Online

England's captain batted beautifully yesterday, but his mood afterwards could not be said to match. It is important to note that Michael Vaughan does not do ugly, either in terms of strokes or temper, but he was pretty annoyed to be speaking about England's day in bright evening sunshine minutes after play on a much-interrupted day had finally been abandoned because of bad light.

England's captain batted beautifully yesterday, but his mood afterwards could not be said to match. It is important to note that Michael Vaughan does not do ugly, either in terms of strokes or temper, but he was pretty annoyed to be speaking about England's day in bright evening sunshine minutes after play on a much-interrupted day had finally been abandoned because of bad light.

He was not alone in wondering why play in the fourth Test was not continuing on a day when only 38.2 overs had been bowled because of rain and poor light. The conditions as Vaughan spoke were arguably the best of the day, but the constructive way in which he put his criticisms contrasted starkly with the way football managers berate referees.

"It's a real tricky situation with cloud cover and a little bit of mizzle and the umpires have to make a decision," he said. "But when the fielding captain asks for the light and we were batting in difficult conditions at 12.30, that's when you ask for consistency.

"The umpires have to make a decision and they're in a difficult position. It's still bright out there. We've had a really good day in the conditions we've been asked to bat in. The fielding side asked them about the light. Nobody's blaming them, all we ask for is consistency and we don't feel consistent decisions have been made today."

Vaughan indubitably had a point and the short-changed, small crowd agreed. But it remains hard to know how consistency can be achieved. As Vaughan observed, teams often go off for the light when a wicket has fallen, when for the batting side it is too late. Equally, with the Wanderers' floodlights it was probably becoming difficult for fielders to see the ball.

Shaun Pollock confirmed later that he was hoping not to be under one of Vaughan's hooks and said Jacques Kallis at slip feared "wearing one". In South Africa's position, England would certainly have done likewise.

Vaughan, together with some unlikely accomplices, had made it England's day. He was 82 not out at the close, two more runs in one innings than he had made in six previously in the series. It had taken considerable diligence and vigilance in the morning - when he was reminded of his debut five years ago when England were 2 for 4 - before he unfurled some strokes from a handsome array that had been in storage for too long.

He revealed that the start of his innings the previous evening had been a struggle for survival and he had spent the night trying to eradicate a slight flaw. He said that he had watched several videos in his hotel room - the image sprang to mind of England's captain, dressing gown on and bat in hand, going through his backlift in the bedroom mirror.

"Once I went to the middle today I was in full control," he said. Vaughan praised the unconventional attacking efforts of Ashley Giles and Stephen Harmison. Of Harmison, he said: "He's a funny batsman. He says if he can survive the first three balls, he's in."

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