Stewart's stubbornness sours England's day of batting brilliance

Jon Culley
Monday 23 December 2013 05:43

Alec Stewart felt obliged to defend his position after his reprieve by the third umpire yesterday sparked new controversy over the use of television replays to help officials rule on contentious incidents.

The veteran wicketkeeper-batsman, whose 92-ball 87 helped England establish a substantial lead on day four of the second Test against India here, stood his ground after seemingly being caught at third slip on 48.

The Indian players celebrated as if the issue were not in doubt when Stewart edged Ajit Agarkar's fifth delivery with the second new ball apparently into the hands of Virender Sehwag. Stewart, however, after exchanging quizzical looks with non-striker Andrew Flintoff, refused to walk.

It was enough to prompt umpire Russel Tiffin to consult his on-field colleague Rudi Koertzen and then seek clarification from the third umpire Jeremy Lloyds. To the naked eye, Sehwag looked to have taken a clean catch but while some television replays seemed to confirm this, others suggested that the ball was scooped up after first hitting the ground. Lloyds deliberated for some moments before deciding the evidence was inconclusive and gave him not out.

"I couldn't see whether it was a catch or not but Andrew Flintoff indicated that he felt it did not carry," Stewart said, after Zaheer Khan had later dismissed him beyond doubt by knocking back his off stump.

"Sourav Ganguly [the Indian captain] thought it was out but by the time I heard him say that, the umpires had already asked for the replay, so I thought it was only right that I stayed where I was until there was a verdict."

In the event, the element of doubt was bound to favour Stewart, and while there was enough in the television replays to suggest he had a point the incident left a sour taste. The former England captain's actions in effect questioned the honesty of a fielder and the competence of an umpire, matters that once would have been taken as read. Little wonder he celebrated his half-century rather sheepishly.

There were echoes of the incident on Saturday in which Lloyds needed to make a judgment in similar circumstances before ruling Mark Butcher to be not out. Butcher remained at the crease after Wasim Jaffer had claimed a catch off Ashish Nehra's bowling in the gully, the England batsman believing the ball had bounced but pictures again proved inconclusive.

Later, Channel Four added to the controversy when the commentator Dermot Reeve demonstrated the fallibility of their own picture evidence, presenting a reconstruction of the Stewart "catch" that showed the ball appearing to be in contact with the ground when Reeve's fingers, in fact, were fully underneath it.

At the moment, in addition to catches that may not have carried, the third umpire can be called on only to judge in run-outs and stumpings. But the International Cricket Council is keen to extend the use of new technology and next month's ICC Trophy in Sri Lanka will see umpires permitted to seek help over any incident.

Yesterday, the former Indian batsman, Sunil Gavaskar, who is a member of the ICC's sub-committee on new technology, said that the council would review its use after the ICC Trophy.

The former England captain Mike Atherton, now a member of Channel Four's commentary team, said he believed the use of technology in this instance was unhelpful. "It has served only to confuse things," he said.

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