Harris Sportsthoughts

Thoughts about Sport

Wishing Upon A Referral

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There is a short spiky fairytale about a woodcutter and his wife. Granted three wishes by a fairy, they proceed to recklessly fritter them away and end up with nothing but a sausage.

Well the story has been remade at Sabina Park, Kingston this week. And to give it a modern twist the wishes have been susbstituted for referrals and the simple woodsfolk for Andrew Strauss. And there’s no sausage.

I feel bad for Strauss in his debut as permanent skipper. Having the won the toss and opting to bat, Strauss was presented with not only a turning track but also a West Indian spinner with the control and nous to exploit it. The poor chap will have been ripping up his copy of Caribbean Captaincy for Dummies.

And so out the field. And quickly into the knotty conundrum of referrals. The discomfiture was written large across Strauss’ face. He wasn’t helped out by a greenhorn test umpire clearly spooked by the humiliating prospect of having his expert judgement regularly called into question.

The original Devon Smith verdict was a bad one. A ball pitching in line and hitting middle and leg about halfway up, Strauss was confident in going for the referral. And the third umpire duly upheld the English claim for leg before. If this wasn’t enough, further ignominy was heaped upon Tony Hill when having to signal a reversed decision: drawing his arms campily across his chest as if just about to launch into a robust performance of the Macarena.

Strauss then grew twitchy: stroking his forearms after every delivery ready to pull the trigger to create the necessary ‘T’ shape. His impulse bested him a few overs after the Smith dismissal as Andrew Flintoff went up for another lbw appeal, this time against Ramnaresh Sarwan. Hill’s initial ‘not out’ decision approved by the TV umpire without too much ado: a ball that was heading a few yards down the legside. Oops.

I suppose you can’t reproach Strauss for being caught up in the exhiliration of the appeal. It was typical Flintoff: loud, wide-eyed and very persuasive. So one referral had disappeared.

Broad. Beanpole.

Broad. Beanpole.

And then later that afternoon, Sarwan’s pads were struck again in front of the stumps. This time by Stuart Broad. The baby-faced beanpole’s question was rebutted by umpire Rudi Koertzen, and a plaintive glance to his skipper was met with a curt shake of the head. It seems that Broad is unable is to put together the kind of cogent case that his colleague Flintoff is capable of. Shame. It was out.

The last referral fell by the wayside yesterday after a hilariously overoptimistic appeal and referral by Monty Panesar and his captain. A desperate gambit by a nervous bowler possibly. The fact it was against Shivnarine Chanderpaul, the Windies’ most obdurate batsman, would suggest that the final referral was tossed away in hope rather than expectation.

Strauss needn’t have worried. Chanderpaul was out shortly after. Leg before. To Stuart Broad.

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