So many things are hot and cold in the South Africa versus Australia test series, about to be decided in South Africa’s favour. All kinds of things could be said about players and selectors but I want to have a closer look at DRS.
I could say that the South African batsmen are hot, the Australian bowlers are not.
Or Hashim Amla is hot, Ricky Ponting is not.
Michael Clarke is hot, Ricky Ponting is not.
I’m talking purely about batting here.
The Australian selectors are not hot. Don’t get me started on that one. I once had a manager who told me that I could forecast failure as much as I liked before the event and in the event of failure, I could say, “I told you so” as much as I liked. However, without the forecast, the rules changed. If nothing was said beforehand, I was to remain silent in the event of failure.
I was going to write something on Thursday night before the Test started, lambasting the selectors and saying that I was putting $50 on the Saffers. For various reasons, I didn’t do either of those things and just after lunch on Friday I was glad. Less than two days later, it was a different story. Let me just say that I am with DK Lillee on this one – the selectors were idiots in the this instance.
Back to the promised topic, I watched Warner’s dismissal in Australia’s first innings. For those of you who missed it, he had a waft outside off stump and the South African’s appealed. There did sound like there was a knick. The appeal was spontaneous and genuine and the umpire’s decision immediate. Warner went for a referral but it took him a long time to decide. Why?
After the obligatory dozens of viewings, the “evidence” didn’t seem to support that Warner hit the ball. There was no visible contact with the ball, nor deviation. Hot spot showed nothing from the front. From the side it showed some weird flash about six inches long. Should that have been ignored? As usual, Warner was playing a long way from his body and his bat was nowhere near the ground (i.e. he didn’t hit the ground or his pad or anything else). What else could the noise have been? I was happy enough that the decision stood – commonsense said he hit it.
I think Warner referred the decision because batsmen have worked out that hot spot does not show the faintest edges. Why else would he have taken so long to decide to refer? If you know you didn’t hit it, you refer it without hesitation, right? He was evaluating if he hit it hard enough to show on hotspot.
In the first Test there were several confident appeals for faint edges. Some of them were given out, some not. I would say that most of them were out. All were referred and none showed on hot spot. Smith had one against him overturned. He later had a similar decision against him, hot spot didn’t show but he was still confirmed out. I can’t follow the logic. It certainly doesn’t seem scientific.
Given the detraction that DRS is, I wonder is it worth it. The delays while decisions are made are awful. So is the process of a team gaining a breakthrough, or claiming a prize scalp, only to have it wrenched back from their grasp. I guess it is good to see howlers overturned but the general consensus is that even they even out over time.
On the last day in Adelaide, with Australia desperate for a breakthrough, du Plessis was twice given a reprieve, both times for lbw. The first was when he didn’t offer a shot. DRS showed the ball striking the stumps but pitching a shade outside leg stump (by that I mean that slightly more than half the ball pitched outside leg stump). Within the letter of the law, it had to be not out. But I wonder what would have happened if the umpire had said, “It’s out anyway. If the batsman is not prepared to play a ball like that with his bat, he can leave.” I think there are times in the past when umpires have perhaps not worried so much about the doubt when a batsman pads up and I’m all for that. More and more, the umpire’s discretionary powers are being removed. For contrast and for the record, the second du Plessis lbw was overturned and it was a bad mistake from Billy Bowden to give it in the first place.
To illustrate my point about decisions evening out, I refer to the 1st Test of Australia’s last visit to India. In what became the final over of the match, with India nine and needing a handful of runs to win, Billy Bowden denied Mitchell Johnson an lbw, because of an inside edge onto the pad (we know this because overthrows resulted and no leg byes were signalled). The ball didn’t hit the bat and if there was DRS, Australia would have won. Or would they have won? Looking at the first over of the very same innings, Gambhir was given out lbw when he had hit the ball and it pitched outside leg stump. Had DRS been in place Gambhir would have had his decision overturned and the whole course of history could have been altered. Maybe India would have won by five wickets. Who knows?
I’m with India on this one. The game is better without DRS. just another reason why I’m looking forward to the Test series in India.