Lord’s officials prove to be (cricket) laws unto themselves
THE only reason not to wonder out loud whether the copies of the laws of cricket regularly consulted by Kumar Dharmasena and Rod Tucker have been published in Braille, is that the blind would be offended to be associated with these unfortunates.
Dharmasena’s decision at Lord’s in London on Thursday that Alviro Petersen had been legitimately dismissed was poor enough, but these things will happen in the heat of Test cricket.
However, Tucker’s considered opinion — delivered after studying umpteen replays — that Jacques Kallis was out beggared belief.
Both Petersen and Kallis had fallen for the folly of fiddling with leg-side deliveries.
On both occasions, the ball hit the batsman’s glove and flew to the wicketkeeper. Also both times, the glove that was struck by the ball was clearly worn by a hand that was not holding the bat.
The laws of cricket and their appendices offer ample opportunity for umpires not to get this wrong.
"The whole of a glove (or gloves) worn on the hand (or hands) holding the bat" shall be "considered as part of the bat" is one of them.
"Contact between a batsman’s hand, or glove worn on his hand, and any part of the bat shall constitute the bat being held in that hand," is another.
"Reference to the bat shall imply that the bat is held in the batsman’s hand or a glove worn on his hand, unless stated otherwise," is still another.
And yet these elementary mistakes were made by men who are supposedly at the top of their field.
Petersen, who was given out by Dharmasena, did not seem to realise the error until he looked up from his trudge back to the pavilion to see the moment replayed on a giant screen. Startled for a second, Petersen knew it was too late to remedy his unfair fate and continued his sorry walk off the ground.
Not so Kallis, who, when Tucker’s howler was revealed, was leaning on his bat secure in the knowledge that he was safe.
Kallis followed his frozen moment of shock with a string of salty words that may yet put him on the match referee’s carpet.
These were the reactions of players who knew they had been the victims of shoddy service by people who should know — and perform — better, but could do nothing about their situation.
The justification for the intrusion of electronic officiating into cricket, and the disruption it causes to the natural rhythm of the game, is that it eliminates the truly poor decision.
Where does that leave Tucker’s blunder — particularly because it was aided and abetted by technology?
But to blame all that went wrong for South Africa on Thursday on the umpires would be churlish.
The departures of Petersen and Kallis formed part of an eight-ball blitz by Steven Finn that also claimed the wicket of Hashim Amla; all for the addition of just three runs, one of them a wide.
What with Graeme Smith’s earlier removal for 14 at a ground where he previously averaged 124.66 — but where he has fallen to James Anderson in all four of his innings — South Africa’s batsmen were under pressure for the first time in a series they have hitherto dominated.
The last ball before lunch, a jagging seamer from Stuart Broad that somehow missed everything as it passed between Jacques Rudolph’s bat and body, emphasised England’s sudden superiority.
However, a short shower of rain during the interval gave all involved time to think, and remember who and where they were.
Finn, who went to lunch with figures of 3/22, conceded 46 runs for no reward in his first five overs of the second session.
That was part of the reason AB de Villiers and Rudolph were able to pick their way through the minefield. Rudolph and JP Duminy did the same, and then Vernon Philander showed some of the same discipline at the batting crease that has made him a fine bowler.
Duminy’s effort was a study in the value of self-sacrifice in service to the greater good of the team.
He did more than stand firm amid the falling debris for almost three hours: he played a blinder.