The second match between India and England was noteworthy for two things. Firstly, confirmation that one half-arsed warm-up game is insufficient preparation for taking on one of the world’s strongest teams on unfamiliar pitches. And secondly, for one of the greatest appeals in the history of cricket.
When Stuart Broad rent the skies of Indore with a caterwauled ‘Howwwwwizzzzaaaaaaat?’ after a well-bowled cutter trapped Rohit Sharma in front of his stumps, he did so with such assurance and certainty that a raised umpirical finger seemed a certainty. The only weakness in Broad’s appeal was the inconvenient truth that the ball had hit Sharma’s bat. And nothing else.
One can only imagine the mental processes that must have coursed through umpire Russell Tiffen’s brain at that moment. Marginal bat-pad appeals are what the professional umpire lives for, why he has spent years incarcerated within the ICC’s secret umpire training and indoctrination facility (rumoured to be in the basement of Wormwood Scrubs prison in London).
But this was not a questionable bat-pad or pad-bat incident. Sharma hit the ball with his bat, whilst his legs were still some distance away. And presumably Tiffen, elite umpire that he is, saw Sharma hit the ball with his bat whilst his legs were still some distance away. And yet Broad appealed with the confidence of a mathematics graduate asserting to an innumerate friend that 3 plus 3 equals 6.
Tiffen must have been momentarily overcome with feelings of confusion and doubt, a fear that his eyesight and/or sanity were failing him, that the cruel Gods of cricket were punishing him for poor decision in a previous match. The ball hit the bat, and the bat hit the ball, and yet there was the bowler leaping up and down, arms and head akimbo, as if the batsman himself had signed an admission of his own lbw guilt. No-one could have blamed Tiffen, in the circumstances, if he had raised the finger of doom out of pure discombobulation. It took a display of quite monumental calmness and self-assurance to give Sharma not out.
For Broad’s part, the appeal was so far-fetched and genuine that there can be no suggestion that this was a devious scheme to hoodwink the official and finesse a wicket from thin air. One can therefore ascribe his behaviour to a mixture of youthful excitement in the middle of an outstanding spell, the effects of the heat; perhaps an unfamiliarity with certain aspects of the lbw law, or the fact that Sharma’s bat might look a bit like a leg from certain angles. And to the England seamer’s new one-man campaign to balance the increasing dominance of bat over ball by trying to persuade the ICC that, on flat batting pitches, bowlers should be credited with a wicket for a nice piece of bowling.
Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on the BBC Radio 4, and a writer