Friday, July 12, 2013

Trent Bridge Day 3

When I toddled off cotwards at the tea break last night things were delicately poised with England having moved on from an overnight 2-80 to 6-230, a rather sedate progress, punctuated by the wickets of Pietersen and Cook in reasonably quick succession (end of the 57th and start of the 59th overs), followed by Bairstow (80th) and Prior (93rd).

Interestingly, three of the six wickets that have fallen in the innings have gone on the last ball of the over. That doesn’t actually mean anything, but it’s one of those quirky statistics that Test cricket tends to throw up.

At that point we were, you’d have reckoned, looking reasonably good. Wickets weren’t falling in a hurry, but we were chipping away and with the lead just under two hundred you’d be looking at a reasonably achievable target.

On that basis, given the previously noted tendency for the desired result to come to pass while Hughesy’s pushing up Zs, I was half expecting to wake up to the news that England were all out and we’d set out in pursuit of a target around 250.

Instead, with four wickets still to fall and the lead having crept past 250, you’d have to say things are starting to lean towards the Poms.

On the way, however, there was one of those incidents that produces a degree of controversy, so let’s pause for a moment to consider the fact that we appear to have a fairly obvious umpiring mistake which has a number of observers getting their knickers in a twist.

I’m inclined to shrug my shoulders, point out that no one is perfect, and suggest this is the kind of thing you have to expect if you use up your referrals in speculative or opportunistic ventures rather than saving them up in case you get an obvious howler that needs to be remedied. End of story.

I would, however, take issue with a comment here that suggests the failure of batsmen to walk when they know they’re out is something that has been brought into the game by those nasty Australians.

Here’s the bit that got me:
The unwritten rule in cases like this was made in Australia. Generations of batsmen have argued that they do not walk unless given out by the umpire (and, having been given out, they do not argue). Broad was acting entirely within his rights. You could argue that Australia had been hoist by their own petard.

Piffle. One could, in contradicting the allegation, point out any number of suggestions that the likes of Gilchrist were going to be selective in walking, and, effectively, using a reputation to influence decisions, but I’d be more inclined to cite the example of the great W.G. Grace, arguably the greatest Englishman of his generation.

Grace, as it turns out, was no stranger to sharp practices with bat and ball, to the extent that, having been bowled in a charity game he refused to leave the crease, informing the bowler that the paying public had parted with their dosh to see him bat.

In another instance, having had a ball nick the stumps, he turned around, replaced the dislodged bail, and passed a remark about the strength of the breeze to the umpire at the bowler’s end.
“Yes, Mr Grace,” came the alleged reply. “Make sure it doesn’t blow your cap off on the way back to the pavilion.”

Cast your eye down the comments on the matter here and you’ll see a couple of variations on a common theme, namely that umpires make mistakes, and, in the days of neutral umpires you’d expect those mistakes to even themselves out around the fifty-fifty mark, all other things being equal.

Of course, all other things are rarely equal, so you’re not going to get too many mistakes on an absolute belter where everything’s hitting the middle of the bat. Faced with a raging turner, half a dozen close fielders around the bat and frequent appeals for bat pad catches, you’re probably going to get a number of them, particularly when you’ve got the predictable tendency to ask for anything.

And there’s the rub. Take a look at the range of comments here and you’ll find an interesting one from Peter Siddle, who starts off fairly graciously "You can't do anything about that," but goes on to talk about referrals, suggesting “You use them when you think there's a chance of getting a wicket and that's what they're there for."

Actually, they’re not. The referral system is there to fix the obvious howlers, and if you’re going to venture into opportunism and speculation you’re going to reap what you sow. An opportunistic referral at 12:50 (here) ends up costing a hell of a lot more at 5:27...

In any case, by that point the damage had already been done. Unless there’s a rapid run through the last four wickets you’d have to reckon a target in excess of 320 is likely, and while it doesn’t look like the track has started to turn at right angles (as predicted by Tuffnell back on Day One) yet, and the innings totals have been lifting as the game proceeds (215, 280, 6-326) you wouldn’t expect the tendency to continue.

Well, it won’t, will it?

Regardless of the target set, thanks to that 65 run lead on the first dig, we’re going to be looking at something less than whatever total England eventually posts but I suspect anything beyond 300 will be a tough ask.

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