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Farcical 'gut feel' twist to umps' bad light decision after play delay slammed, great's left-field Warner replacement call

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4th January, 2024
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The contentious decision by umpires Michael Gough and Richard Illingworth to delay play due to bad light midway through Day 2 at the SCG has become even more controversial, with the pair revealed to have made the call despite not having a working light meter available.

A Code Sports report claims the umpires made a ‘gut feel’ decision that the light wasn’t good enough for play to continue, with a broken meter leaving them unable to make an accurate reading.

According to the report, the umpires were later able to find a working light meter, but by then, the players had already headed into the rooms, with the rain descending shortly after and forcing an early finish to play.

The decision to stop play in the first place was already a point of contention, with former England captain Michael Vaughan less than impressed with the decision.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 04: Umpires Michael Gough and Richard Illingworth speak with Reserve Umpire Claire Polosak as play is delayed to due light conditions during day two of the Men's Third Test Match in the series between Australia and Pakistan at Sydney Cricket Ground on January 04, 2024 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mike Owen - CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

Umpires Michael Gough and Richard Illingworth. (Photo by Mike Owen – CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

“I can’t stand this happening,” Vaughan said on Fox Cricket as the players walked off.

“Is it that dangerous?

“We just seem to find a way of getting off the pitch at any opportunity. T20 cricket, 50-over cricket, you just stay out there!

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“It’s an entertainment business – there’s no threat to the batters.”

Former Australian player and coach Justin Langer was also fuming.

“It is so frustrating,” Australia’s ex-coach and player Justin Langer said on Channel 7. 

“I have walked in all the shoes as a player and batsman. You want to be off and want perfect conditions, and then as coach you want what’s best for your team.

“But when you look at the big picture, it is crazy these guys aren’t playing Test cricket here. 

“You have a big crowd here, they have come here for David Warner’s last game. 

“It is the pink Test. It is a competitive and combative Test match, and yet we’re walking off the ground. 

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“It’s not great for the game of cricket this is happening right now.”

Watson’s left-field call for Warner opener replacement

Former Australian all-rounder Shane Watson has made a bold call on who should replace Dave Warner upon his retirement, and has called for Steve Smith to potentially make the transition.

Cameron Bancroft, Marcus Harris and Matthew Renshaw have been considered the favourites to replace Warner, but Watson believes Smith is in need of a challenge to rediscover his previous form.

All-rounder Cameron Green has also been mentioned by coach Andrew McDonald and captain Pat Cummins as an option to partner Usman Khawaja against the West Indies when the two-Test series gets under way later this month in Adelaide.

“There’s no question in my mind he can,” Watson told ESPNcricinfo when listing why he thinks the veteran vice-captain should do it.

Shane Watson walks to the pavilion after being dismissed LBW

Shane Watson back in his playing days. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

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“Australia needs to get Cameron Green into the team and the opportunity that you’ve got right now is for him to open. They’ll just have to manage his bowling, for sure, like with my bowling when I was opening the batting.

“But he absolutely has got the skill, the run-scoring ability and the understanding to be able to make the most of being an opening batter for sure. It might take him a game or two just to be able to work out exactly what his game plan is.

“But he’s definitely got the game and the mentality to make the most of it.”

Watson made a similar transition from the middle order to the opening slot during his Test career.

“If you’re scoring runs even slightly lower down the order, you’re facing new balls at times whether you come in early or facing a second new ball, so you’re very well equipped to be able to deal with a brand new ball opening the batting,” Watson added while referencing Usman Khawaja and Simon Katich as other examples of successful converted openers.

“It just comes down to what the game plan is and then having the right mindset to be able to capitalise on the technical skills that you do have.

“I certainly didn’t serve an apprenticeship in Shield cricket opening the batting but it suited me down to the ground when I got the opportunity to do it Test cricket, just with my technique but also with my mindset that was created because of it.”

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SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 04: David Warner of Australia walks off the field after being dismissed by Agha Salman of Pakistan during day two of the Men's Third Test Match in the series between Australia and Pakistan at Sydney Cricket Ground on January 04, 2024 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

David Warner(Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

Warner falls after another Pakistan sitter goes down

Dave Warner has fallen for 34 just shy of lunch of day two of his final test at the SCG, despite surviving yet another drop in the slips as Pakistan’s woeful hands continue to plague this series.

Pakistan’s new first slip Saim Ayub was brought in to replace Abdullah Shafique’s woeful performance in the Boxing Day Test match, however the debutant has produced a drop almost just as bad as his predecessor’s efforts.

Warner, who at the time was on 20, was beaten again thanks to the impressive bowling of Aamir Jamal. The slip cordon however let him down again, with the commentators bemoaning so many missed chances for the visitors.

“That should be taken nine times out of ten,” Michael Hussey admitted on Fox Cricket.

“There is no subtle sense of soft hands, just to give with the ball a fraction,” Adam Gilchrist added.

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Fortunately, the drop didn’t cost Pakistan too much, as Warner struggled on for most of the morning session, only added 14 more runs before he was caught by Babar Azam off Agha Salman’s bowling.

Despite this, it is a concerning sign the visitors need to patch things up in the field significantly, as they look to finish their Australian tour with their first win here since 1995.

However, it is not just the visitors who are copping criticism, as Wasim Akram laid into the Australian team for their slow batting method during this first innings.

Upon returning after lunch, the Australians have scored just 35 runs in the first 15 overs, and with the test match as even sided as it is, Akram was questioning the tactics behind such a move.

“Coming back to Australian batting – what’s wrong with them?” the Pakistan legend asked on Fox Cricket.

“They’re not batting on a minefield, the ball is not turning, it’s a good pitch, the spinners are not bowling exceptionally well, and their run rate is 2.51.

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“They’re not even trying to play! Usman Khawaja was well set, but he was just blocking everything. If you do that, you’re going to get a good delivery, and he got one in the end.”

Cummins can be Australia’s greatest since the Don, says Vaughan

Speaking on Fox Cricket, Vaughan also believes that by the end of his career, Pat Cummins will be Australia’s greatest player to don the baggy green since Sir Donald Bradman.

Cummins enjoyed an amazing 2023, becoming the first captain in a calendar year to win two ICC trophies – the World Test Championship as well as the World Cup. On top of that, he retained the Ashes in England and won the Benaud-Qadir Trophy in this series against Pakistan.

He’s also carved out a slice of history during this tour, becoming the first Australian since Merv Hughes in the 1988/89 summer of cricket to take three consecutive five-wicket hauls at home.

When asked about the question of how Pat Cummins stacks up to the legendary Dennis Lillee, Vaughan’s answer surprised his co-commentators.

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“I saw a bit of DK [Lillee] on screen but I think … Pat Cummins, in time.

“[I] don’t think he’s ever going to surpass Sir Don, [but] I think Cummins is going to end up being Australia’s greatest cricketer after Sir Don.

“I honestly think he’s that good – captain, bowler, his record, his numbers, five to seven years left playing. 

‘You would think… I honestly think he’s that good that we will be talking about him in a few years time as being just behind Sir Don Bradman as the greatest Australian cricketer.” 

(Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Marsh defends short ball tactics against Pakistan tail

Australian allrounder Mitch Marsh believes the third Test against Pakistan is delicately poised heading into day two at the SCG.

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Things could hardly have started worse for the tourists who won the toss but lost 2-4 after both openers went for second-ball ducks.

Captain Pat Cummins (5-61) threatened to explode with the ball once again, dismissing Babar Azam (26) and then Mohammad Rizwan, who posted Pakistan’s largest individual score of the series to date (88).

But Pakistani No.9 Aamir Jamal picked up where Rizwan left off in the final session, taking advantage of Australia’s unimaginative fields and penchant for the short ball.

Marsh defended the tactics of using the short ball, saying the squad looked to capitalise on previous weaknesses shown earlier in the series.

“You’ve always got to back in what you’re doing, certainly when you’re bowling to a tail-ender,” Marsh said.

“He could easily hit one of those straight up and we weren’t necessarily waiting for that to happen but I honestly think he batted unbelievably well.

Aamer Jamal celebrates reaching a half-century.

Aamer Jamal celebrates reaching a half-century. (Photo by Jason McCawley – CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

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“We saw a potential weakness to the short ball last game, the ball got old, slower wicket and he played exceptionally well. It was hard work.”

Aamir was caught after a well-made 82 from 97 deliveries that powered Pakistan to 313 – their best total of the series to date.

“Hopefully it’s a long grind, if we can bat well tomorrow (on Thursday), really apply some pressure to the Pakistan team over the next couple of days, but yeah I guess day one, it’s 50/50,” Marsh said.

Marsh said a good SCG deck had encouraged Warner and Khawaja to begin their stand as early as possible.

“I think both openers were really keen to get out there, it’s obviously a really good wicket,” he said.

CA take up fight for longer series to preserve Tests

Cricket Australia boss Nick Hockley will urge other nations to set a three-match minimum for Test series in a bid to fend off fears over the format’s possible demise.

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In a dire summer for Test cricket, South Africa will send a second-string side to New Zealand this month while West Indies will bring seven rookies on their tour of Australia.

The reality of big-money Twenty20 leagues continues to loom large over the sport, with an ever-growing list of players prioritising the shorter format over Test cricket.

Nick Hockley at a press conference

Nick Hockley. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

South Africa’s governing body have ordered contracted players to feature in their lucrative SA20 competition rather than tour New Zealand.

Hockley on Thursday labelled that situation a wake-up call for the sport, and was adamant more needed to be done to avoid similar scheduling clashes.

A firm backer of Test cricket, Hockley has long believed the World Test Championship can help breathe life back into the red-ball format.

But to do that, he says Test series should last at least three matches – backing similar calls from Pat Cummins and national team coach Andrew McDonald to give greater context.

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More than half of all series in the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) future tours programme (FTP) for 2023-2027 are scheduled for two Tests.

Of series not involving at least one of India, England or Australia, none are scheduled for three Tests or more.

“The preference is a minimum three-Test series, so we’ll keep advocating and championing that,” Hockley said on SEN. 

“There is work to be done on on the FTP, and it’s really cementing the World Test Championship.

“Really advocating for three-Test series as an absolute minimum. 

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“And then, as best as we possibly can, making sure that with domestic T20 competitions we minimise the overlap for countries where it is an important source of revenue.”

Hockley is adamant Test cricket remains a priority for all countries, but economics remains a big issue.

Players representing nations other than India, England and Australia are paid less by their own boards, increasing the lure of T20 franchise deals.

South Africa’s current situation comes after years of financial difficulty within the sport in the country, with the SA20 emerging as a money-spinning saviour when launched last year.

All six teams in the SA20 are owned by Indian Premier League franchise holders, with a similar model in the USA’s Major League Cricket.

There are fears of players ultimately signing year-long deals with franchises to appear in multiple competitions.

“(The South Africa situation) has been a wake-up call for everyone,” Hockley said.

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“The role of T20, bringing new kids and new people into the game can’t be underestimated. 

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 04: (L-R) Jake Fraser-McGurk of the Melbourne Renegades; Wes Agar of the Adelaide Strikers; Matt Gilkes of the Sydney Thunder; Lance Morris of the Perth Scorchers; Matt Kuhnemann of the Brisbane Heat; Joe Burns of the Melbourne Stars; Paddy Dooley of the Hobart Hurricanes and Moises Henriques of the Sydney Sixers pose during the 2023-24 Big Bash League season launch at the Moore Park Driving Range on December 04, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images for Cricket Australia)

Hockley believes Test Cricket and T20 Cricket can co-exist (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images for Cricket Australia)

“Their T20 comp as compared to the Big Bash, we’re in our 13th edition. They’re in their second. Theirs is quite a short comp. 

“The belief is that (franchise T20 cricket and Tests) can co-exist. 

“But this has shone a light. And certainly, we’ll be working with the ICC through scheduling groups to make sure those types of clashes don’t manifest.”

with AAP

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