It was supposed to be a quiet series between the Ashes holder England and a poor Australian team. England wins 5-0, Australia goes home with its kangaroo tail between its legs and England drowns in champagne and good wishes.
Instead Australia has found the guts to fight back from 2-0 down and the whole series seems to have descended into a row about the rights and wrongs of DRS. I blame the surfeit of ex-players writing and commentating and, frankly, sensationalising the series.
Half a dozen umpiring decisions have caused the hackles of these experts to rise sky high and since the start of the third Test in Manchester there has been an almost continuous technology lecture.
Silicon tape issue
Channel Nine in Australia has even broadcast allegations that Kevin Pietersen may have used silicon tape on his bat so that the electronic device known as Hot Spot cannot detect whether the ball has hit the edge. (He would be mad to try such a trick because it might mean that the TV umpire would not see a faint edge if the appeal was for lbw.)
'If I’m out I walk,' he said on Twitter and as long as I have been watching KP that has been true. I have called him all sorts of names but I have never even thought he might be a cheat. Great batsmen are usually too interested in making heaps of runs to think how to avoid getting out. So cheating and KP — you can forget it.
Michael Clarke, the Australian captain, says no-one in his dressing room would dream of cheating and I reckon that’s true too. Australian batsmen may attempt to strike innocent young English players in bars after midnight but I can remember times when they have been given out wrongly and walked off without a murmur of protest. When they play cricket they are usually what they would call 'fair dinkum' which means straight and honest.
Still, there is a problem with DRS. It has sprinted ahead of the human capability. The TV umpires need more experience, the players need more restraint and the ICC, which sent two of its top guys to England to examine all the complaints on Wednesday, needs to keep its eyes wide open. The MCC world committee, packed with shrewd former captains, backed DRS recently because, it said, it gave more correct decisions.
One day, believe me, DRS will be perfect. Batsmen will praise it, bowlers will bless it and umpires will swear by it. One hundred per cent accuracy will be its minimum requirement and when improved cameras, better technicians and more skilful TV umpires take over it will be a boon to the whole game. Cricket heaven!
The Board of Control for Cricket in India was right when it decided to wait for the system to improve and perhaps the rest of the world should have waited too.
Instead they rushed in where angels feared to tread and now KP is furious, England’s fast bowler Graham Onions is having to swear there is not a strip of silicon tape in the whole of Durham when he would rather be perfecting his outswinger for use in the fourth Test on his home track at Chester-le-Street on Friday and, miracle of miracles, the Ashes series has burst into flames.
It’s not a gimmick to increase ticket sales because all the tickets were sold last winter but it is a talking point that will last until next autumn when for two months down under the whole Ashes thing is to be played again and, believe me, that will certainly not be dull.