Following in the rich tradition of getting everything wrong, established in the first fornight of the tour Down Under, allow me to apologise to Phil Hughes for suggesting that he would make an impact on debut. The 20-year-old was a babble of nerves in his first Test innings before slashing wildly at the fourth ball of the match and departing for a duck. Still, at least he has learnt early in his career how low things can sink to.
The Australian media were too busy coming to terms with the shock inclusion of Ben Hilfenhaus ahead of Doug Bollinger to worry about Hughes’s demise. Bollinger, they assumed, was a ‘dead cert’ for the XI having featured in the Sydney victory in January but David Boon, the travelling selector, along with Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke, opted for the specialist swing bowler in Hilfenhaus. Only Clarke isn’t from Tasmania. A coincidence, surely.
The visiting media were also intrigued by the attitude of the security guards patrolling the grass bank in front of the players change rooms. Time and time again they plodded onto the field to retrieve a tennis ball before patiently lobbing it back to the little boys involved in their own ‘test’ match. Not only did they refuse to confiscate the balls, but they didn’t even appear to admonish the lads, let alone fine contemplate fining them or having them evicted from the ground. All very un-Australian. We can’t possibly expect the boys to grow up as obedient citizens if we allow them to get away with that sort of behaviour. And what about the inherent dangers? A fielder could easily have been hospitalised with multiple fractures of the leg if he’d stood on one.
The interview before play with Steve Bucknor was a curious affair. He said he felt both physically and mentally strong and would have liked to carry on for another couple of years. So why had he announced his retirement at the end of the series? “There were other reasons…” he muttered, darkly. Couldn’t help feeling that meant he’d been ‘encouraged’ to step aside by his bosses at the ICC. They have a very scientific way of ‘measuring’ the performances of their elite panel umpires and, in simple terms, Bucknor was faced with relegation or honourable departure.
Before the Test began the TV commentators met with ICC umpires manager, Doug Cowie, to discuss the third umpire ‘review’ system. Amongst many fascinating points raised, the most interesting were probably these two: If the non-striker spots that the bowler has bowled a no-ball which produces a wicket, he can inform his partner to call for a ‘review.’ And if a batsman believes he has hit the ball to which he has been given out lbw, or that it pitched outside leg stump, he is allowed to signal that information to the third umpire “…to share information and help him find the evidence he is looking for,” said Cowie. Heaven help the batsman who does that when there is no ‘review’ being called for. It would probably constitute a level 3 offence – questioning the umpires decision and showing dissent. A R10,000 fine becomes a welcome and even encouraged gesture of assistance.
South Africa will have to bowl well on day two. With rain around the wicket will stay lively and a score of 300+ could be very useful indeed. But I’m only saying that to see just how badly wrong I can be, again.
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