Poor umpiring overshadows Ajmal wizardry at Newlands

By Ant Sims 16 February 2013

Saeed Ajmal bagged five for 41 as he bowled 25 overs on the trot on the second day at Newlands, but his crafty wizardry was overshadowed by yet another DRS controversy. ANT SIMS reports from Cape Town.

Amidst Pakistan digging in against South Africa on Friday and Saeed Ajmal leaving the hosts in a tizz, there was another controversy which dominated proceedings. This time, the controversy was largely surrounding poor umpiring and not the system which was implemented to help poor umpiring – and a whole lot of controversy involving the Decision Review System.

Jacques Kallis was given out in strange fashion. Nobody was quite sure what Kallis was given out for initially, but according to the TV commentators, umpire Steve Davis gave Kallis out caught at short leg. The South African all-rounder was convinced that he hadn’t hit the ball and went for the review. He was right as, upon review, Hot Spot showed nothing. However, third umpire Billy Bowden had told Davis that, had the appeal been for leg-before, the decision would have stood with umpire’s call.

This is where the lines get blurred and where the decision becomes somewhat confusing.

According to 3.3 of the DRS laws: “The third umpire shall not withhold any factual information which may help in the decision making process, even if the information is not directly prompted by the on-field umpire’s questions. In particular, in reviewing a dismissal, if the third umpire believes that the batsman may instead be out by any other mode of dismissal, he shall advise the on-field umpire accordingly. The process of consultation described in this paragraph in respect of such other mode of dismissal shall then be conducted as if the batsman has been given not out.”

That’s a whole lot of jargon which left the entire press contingent scratching their heads for a while after the decision was made.

In essence and in a more coherent breakdown, it comes down to this:

  • Davis had given Kallis out as caught, this can be ascertained by the information picked up on the stump mic and because of Davis’ reaction when the decision was made.
  • Upon the decision being given out after review, Davis crossed his arms (the signal for showing the on field decision has been overruled).
  • The “umpire’s call” system on the leg-before decision would have been rendered null and void as it should have been treated as if though the batsman was given not out and, as a result, should have stayed not out.

South Africa team manager, Mohammad Moosajee, said on Friday he had received a satisfactory explanation, but wouldn’t reveal exactly what was said as teams and their management are all governed by a code of conduct.

Kallis was, understandably, irked and the ICC has responded and admitted its error: “The PCT made an honest error in this extremely rare situation. The umpires followed usual umpiring principles in giving Kallis out lbw on umpire’s call the review was for the batsman out caught. This is because the normal principle is that an appeal covers all forms of dismissal.

“However, the playing conditions state that when the third umpire observes that the batsman could be out by another mode of dismissal, the decision being reviewed using DRS should be as if the batsman had been originally given not out. Therefore, in this instance Kallis, as the point of impact was umpire’s call, should not have been given out lbw.”

It’s just another notch in the belt of poor umpiring and some serious questions have arisen involving the Decision Review System, which has been a hot topic of discussion. While this time it was a combination of poor decision making form a panel of “elite” umpires and the system itself, it’s likely to raise a few more questions and stir a few more debates, particularly around the “umpire’s call” feature of the system, something which has been debated already on the basis of ‘either trust the system completely, or don’t trust it at all’.

Between all this, Ajmal had weaved a web to trap and demolish the South African batsmen. With his subtle spin, foxing even the best batsmen in the world, Ajmal made the hosts look completely clueless. Watching him ply his trade and take wickets is like watching a kid in a candy store being given free reign as he eats all the sweets he can fit into his mouth in one joyous gobble. While he had been nullified in his previous matches against South Africa and while the hosts insisted that there were firm plans in place to make sure they know how to play him, it started to look like a brain melt of English proportions were on the cards.

The Proteas capitulated to 139-5 on the second day, still 199 runs behind Pakistan’s first innings total of 338 and with AB de Villiers and Dean Elgar both unbeaten at the crease, an interesting first session beckons at Newlands, one where South Africa find themselves in a rather unfamiliar position for a first time in the home summer.

They have their backs against the wall and while they have been there a few times away from home the last few months and somehow always managed to scrap their way out of it, the pressure is always more at a fortress.

If ever there was a chance for Elgar to prove that he is better than his first few Tests have shown, this is it. All while guided by De Villiers, who needs to take the responsibility of a senior player and shepherd a youngster who’s likely low on confidence.

South Africa said in the build-up to the Test that having plan A, B and C in place is key. Plan A of nullifying Ajmal has failed, time to crack on with the rest. DM

Photo: Pakistan’s Saeed Ajmal (L) appeals unsuccessfully for the wicket of South Africa’s Alviro Petersen during the second day of their first cricket test match in Johannesburg, February 2, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings



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