Sunday, August 20, 2006

Things go pear-shaped at the Oval - Part II

I originally used this title on a post a few days back to blog on England's dire predicament after having been dismissed for 173. Who would have predicted an England victory?
Only someone who could have foreseen the most calamitous and injudicious day's cricket ever, that's who. The controversy arose in the 56th over of England's second innings after umpires Hair and Doctrove decreed that the ball had been unfairly tampered with. Having been distorted from its original shape, a ball will swing, seam and spin more. A new ball was summoned (or more aptly a spare ball which closest resembled a ball that had been used for 56 overs - confused yet?), and Pakistan were docked 5 runs, which were in actuality added to England's second innings total.
Things proceeded serenely enough until tea when the Pakistani team saw the report prepared by the umpires to explain the penalty. In effect they had been accused of ball-tampering (read cheating) without any evidence and had no opportunity to appeal. The fact that Sky Sports has 26 cameras permanently trained on different parts of the field of play would indicate that if any foul play had been afoot, it would have been picked up. Lest we forget Big Brother (or Sky) is watching you.
If no evidence was immediately forthcoming then surely it would make sense that all camera footage be studied meticulously. On Radio Five Sports Extra (I finally lost my tether with the ridiculously inane Jack Bannister on TalkSport) Geoffrey Boycott said that the ball is studied after the fall of any wicket and given that Alistiar Cook was out a quarter of an hour before the incident, it means that only 15 minutes of cricket needs to be studied (granted from 26 different camera angles).
I remember Mike Atherton and the dirt in the pocket scandal against South Africa in 1994 and that was caught clearly enough. Now given that this footage could not be satisfactorily examined during the tea interval (given time restrictions) would it not have made more sense to study the footage overnight and make a judgement overnight alerting both the Pakistan team, the England team, the media and, most importantly, the people who paid good money to sit around and not be informed anything at all?
The penalty of 5 runs would, in all likelihood, not effect the outcome of the match, so consequently it could have been levied after plays end and before the start of play today, which of course will now not happen.
Now let's get one thing straight: Pakistan don't have the right to bollocks around and not come out to play. No question or right or wrong here, law 21 of the game about 'timing out' states that the players must come out to play within a certain time scale. By contravening law 21, the Pakistanis forfeited the match, thus giving England a 3-0 series victory.
However, the real culprit is Darrell Hair (and his sidekick Billy Doctrove); Hair has a history with Asian countries notably calling Murali for chucking and a ridiculously unfair run-out decision against Inzi last year. He appears to be the most insensitive of individuals, a jobsworth who does his job to the letter of the law. He upheld the laws of the game, but the spirit of the game was left beaten and bloodied on the floor. Hair's intransigence (in issuing of the penalty) caused this whole schemozzle and I agree with Pakistan's offence at this insult without proof.
If the penalty was issued after plays end, Pakistan's protest would not have resulted them forfeiting the game. So the blame falls upon the shoulders of Darrell Hair not the Pakistani team. It is their misfortune not to have known the rules, or if they did then to think they can flout them. There should be no talk of restarting the match or making it void, the laws of the sport must remian in tact and it would be totally wrong to change them in this instance.
Today, Pakistan have announced that they will *never* play in a match umpired by Darrell Hair again. I understand their reasoning and agree with it 100%. It has also been announced that the Sky cameras have not found any evidence of ball tampering.
One sidepoint: have bookies had to pay out for the England win? If so there must have been some great odds for an England win and some cookies somewhat smarter than me may well have reason to celebrate today.

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