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.