Tag Archives: DRS

The Ashes: First Test day 5 – Out of range

SOMETIMES it’s the things we don’t witness, rather than the things we do, which stick in the memory. On the final day of the second Test at Edgbaston in 2005, I was standing outside a small theatre in Edinburgh waiting to take part in a dress rehearsal for a play. Glued to my portable radio, I was beckoned inside as Australia got within 12 runs of victory with one wicket remaining. That’s that, I thought. While the greatest Test finish of the modern age was playing out in my home town, I was prancing around a dark Scottish studio pretending to be Franz Kafka.

A week later, I missed the entire final day of the Old Trafford Test. Having avoided the score, I sought out an Edinburgh sports bar for the soundless highlights as the Aussies scraped a draw. I still see Ricky Ponting’s giant plasma face looming over me in my dreams.

I heard the end of that year’s Trent Bridge Test perching on a steep cliff in deepest Cornwall, before actually managing to find a screen – this time back at university in Hull – for the last rites.

At the start of the ill-fated return series in 2006-07, my main memory is wandering around East Yorkshire trying desperately, and unsuccessfully, to find a pub showing the cricket in a town of football and rugby league. The rest of that series has been erased from my mind. Can’t think why.

In 2009, I thought my bad luck had ended when I made it to a couple of days of the Edgbaston Test. I even had a ticket to the fifth day at The Oval, which was shaping up to be a victory parade for the home team. But they were too good. Swann, Harmison and Andrew Flintoff’s famous run-out of Ricky Ponting ensured a fourth-day win – and I missed it all, again, stuck on a slow train from Cornwall to London.

This year I vowed it would never happen again. I invested in Sky Sports, and was all set for a thrilling summer stuck to the sofa while all the other children played outside. But having closely followed the opening four days of the first Test, I was dragged away at the crucial period.

With Australia eight down and needing 100 to win, I set off on the road to a family barbecue. No matter, I thought, TMS will keep me informed. The ninth wicket fell and we lost signal. Out of range for the best part of an hour, I was fearing the worst. We arrived at our destination and immediately asked our host how the cricket was going. “Abysmal”. 20 to win.

We sat in the garden, the faint sounds of Aggers and co drifting out from the kitchen. When the final wicket fell, a confusion of DRS, hot spot, snicko and an overturned decision, I didn’t know what to do. For the last four days I had been yelling, screaming and punching the air at the fall of every wicket. At one point my neighbour was heard to remark “It sounds like you’ve got the Barmy Army in there.” And now, at the most crucial time, I was surrounded by in-laws who have at best a passing interest in the game.

I stuck another sausage in a bun, reached for the ketchup and allowed myself a smile. It’s going to be a long summer.

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The Decision Review System and Schrödinger’s cat

by Sam Blackledge

IN 1935 the Austrian physicist Erwin Schrodinger devised a thought experiment applying the theories of quantum mechanics to a hypothetical scenario.

Schrödinger presented the idea of a cat trapped in a box with a vial of poison, a radioactive source and a Geiger counter. If the counter detects radiation, the flask is shattered and the poison kills the cat. But according to Schrödinger’s theory, while the box is still sealed the cat is simultaneously alive and dead in the minds of those in the outside world.

The theory has probably never been aligned with the world of cricket, but during the third day of the second test between England and West Indies it suddenly sprang to mind.

Tim Bresnan bowled two balls to Kirk Edwards. The first one struck him on the pad, a huge appeal went up, but umpire Asad Rauf was unmoved. England decided against the review – a wise choice, as Hawk Eye showed the ball would have gone on to clip leg stump and the original decision would have stood. Bresnan’s second ball again trapped Edwards in front and he was given out. He accepted the decision and the replay had the ball just clipping the bails.

In both instances, the ball was only just hitting the stumps. Had the decisions been reviewed, both would have stayed with the on-field umpire’s decision. But the end result was that one was out, and one was not out. Confused?

The official guide to the Decision Review System (DRS) states: “If the technology shows that the centre of the ball would have hit the stumps within an area demarcated by a line drawn below the lower edge of the bails and down the middle of the outer stumps then it’s out (subject to all other factors being in place.)
“If the technology shows that no part of the ball would have made contact with any part of the stumps or bails then it’s not out. Otherwise, the on-field umpire’s original decision stands.”

You may need to read that again. This aspect of the DRS is in place to take account of that grey area, the unknown land between the ball hitting the pad for real and striking the stumps in the virtual world of the third umpire’s room.

While the players are mulling over whether or not to review a decision, the batsman can be seen as both out and not out. You would think the increasingly impressive technology would bring this existential crisis to a swift conclusion. In tennis, Hawk Eye has done wonders to show conclusively whether the ball is in or out. In soccer, the whole of the ball must be over the whole of the line. But cricket being cricket, we have to make things just that little bit more complicated.

Let’s go back to that first ball from Bresnan. It was hitting leg stump, but given not out. Logic dictates that the decision should be overturned. If Edwards had missed the ball, the technology says it would have clipped leg stump. Would it have been given not out because only one stump was disturbed? Of course not.

If the ICC had a policy of “clipping the stumps is not out”, we could deal with that. But the second ball was clipping the stumps too, and given out. If Edwards had reviewed it, he would still have had to slump back to the pavilion.

The DRS is one of the most significant advances of the modern era. It will surely undergo several changes over the next few years, but in order for it to really work the authorities need to trust it.

By sticking with this system which leaves half of the power in the hands of the on-field umpire, the ICC is refusing to commit and therefore questioning the reliability of its own brainchild. The ball is either be hitting the stumps – out – or missing them – not out. Until this issue is resolved, the cat in the box remains both alive and dead.

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