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Both DRS and Australia's judgment flawed

When the Australians review this first Test, form says they will botch it. Indiscriminate recourse to the decision review system contributed to, but did not cause, their imminent defeat. It would also behoove the ICC to review the system.

Three of the six wickets that fatally undermined Australia's Quixotic bid for victory were processed through DRS. Obtaining a Test wicket has become something akin to negotiating terms of surrender. Reaching agreement on Michael Clarke's dismissal was as protracted business as Versailles. It was as if a do-or-die penalty in a soccer match had to be retaken twice.

In each of England's second innings and its own, Australia blew both its referrals before the fall of the fifth wicket. Infamously, it cost Australia the wicket of Stuart Broad on Friday at a time when it still would have made a difference. DRS promotes cynicism: you can be reasonably sure that Broad's obstinacy was because of a dressing room directive not to walk under any circumstances, knowing that Australia was helpless to protest. You can also be sure Australia would have been equally calculating if the roles were reversed.

Australia was reckless. Bowling, it expended two referrals frivolously. Batting, Shane Watson was in such a rush to refer his lbw that he raised his bat and hand almost simultaneously with Aleem Dar's finger, and without consulting partner Chris Rogers. But the replay showed that the ball was nicking leg stump, and Australia was one wicket and one referral down. Watson left the ground as if being winched from it.


Nine balls later, Rogers was judged to have feathered catch from Swann to the wicketkeeper, but referred successfully. Rogers at least appears to have the gift of good judgment.

Then came the Clarke chaos. England exulted at what appeared to be a catch behind from Broad's outswinger, Aleem Dar asked TV umpire Marius Erasmus for confirmation that the ball had carried, then gave Clarke out. Immediately, Clarke gestured for a referral, which at length showed a lukewarm spot, and Dar raised his finger again.

Was this an instance of a hypocritical Australian not walking? That is insupportable. Clarke knew that that he could not bluff; DRS would expose him to ridicule as well as dismissal. In any case, the price would be Australia's last referral. Clarke said later that he did not think he had hit the ball. That is a claim Broad patently could not make.

But Australia was out of lifelines. Next ball, Steve Smith was clinically lbw to Graeme Swann. Sixteen balls later, Phil Hughes shuffled back to Swann and was beaten by a ball that appeared to trained eyes to pitch outside leg stump. Umpire Kumar Dharmasena rejected Swann's appeal, and England promptly referred to a more elevated authority. Hawkeye's estimation - and it is an estimation - indicated that the ball was clipping the line of leg stump, Hughes was given out for a duck and Australia's back was broken. Also its heart. On referrals, it was 3-1 to England.

A salient point obtain here about DRS's incoherent protocols. If Hawkeye had shown that the ball pitched in line, but was only clipping the stumps, the on-field umpire's decision would have stood, in this instance not out. Presumably, this is to allow for millimetres of margin for error in DRS's tracking technology. Yet when determining where the ball pitched, not even a hair's breadth allowance is made. This is what damned Hughes.

The evidence of this match alone ought to be enough to prompt to overhaul the operation of DRS; it has frustrated everyone.

This was the overlay to another intriguing day. In a way, Watson personified it for Australia, which at 0/84 and 2/141 was twice on winning thresholds, but could not consummate them. It is Watson's career in miniature.

Australia was set an improbable and a historical 311 to win, but Watson and Rogers began boldly. No two more complementary characters could be found even in a novel. Watson is right-handed, Rogers left. Watson's way is to hit the new ball, and sometimes to miss it, Rogers to absorb it. Watson rides out to confront the attack, Rogers circles the wagon.

On this slow pitch, Watson's method was riskier than Rogers', but this day just as efficacious. You could count the straight and cover drives in England's long second innings on one hand, but Watson was not deterred. His shotplay was crisp and classical, like newly laundered and pressed shirts. Rogers has a carefully tucked-up technique, in which he appears always to be manoeuvring the ball from under his nose, as if his bat is a joystick. So they tweedledumdeed to 84. Then, first ball after a drinks break, Watson was out. It left everyone with that Watto feeling, of an immaculately struck semi-score, and a drama at the end.

It was the start of a revived spell from Broad, complemented by another from Steve Finn, which was England's secondary gain on the day. There is peculiar psychology to these long run chases. For nearly two hours, no wicket threatened, and one must have seemed to English minds as far off as the name of a song that won't come to mind. But once one falls, the rest seem possible.

Ed Cowan has taken on the aspect of a man in palliative care; his career his shrivelling before our eyes. Rogers bided three hours for 50, then unexpectedly chipped Anderson into a trap. To Smith, all of cricket is an itch to be scratched. England contrived to locate that itch between his shoulder blades, and out of reach. He hit fours from the third and 45th balls he faced, and was out to the 88th.

Even Clarke found the going hard. Anderson's reverse swing caused him to prod inelegantly, like a wrong-footed footballer. Class and knowing protected him. England, bowling as a team for the first time in the match, contracted the scoring; 10 overs passed without a boundary until Clark edged one to third man. After nearly two hours of toil, he changed his sweaty inners, but immediately was out.

Swann was bound to have a say in this game at some stage, and now did, leaving Haddin and Ashton Agar to put into safe harbour until stumps. Once drawn, Haddin made to shake the hand of England century-maker Ian Bell, and the day finished on a pleasantly gracious note. As fourth innings go, this has been a game effort, but at 6/174, no more than a fingertip of grip remains.


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