June 7, 2003

Time for technology

England v Zimbabwe, 2nd Test, Chester-le-Street, Day 3

Congratulations to Riverside for its maiden Test match. A pity it did not last longer, but trigger-happy umpires had something to do with that. The crowd provided a good atmosphere, apart from the idiotic and irresponsible hurling of rubbish into the air during its Mexican waves.

Dion Ebrahim has been given a long run in the Zimbabwean team without too much to show for it at times - certainly more than those enjoyed by more experienced players such as Craig Wishart, Gavin Rennie and Trevor Gripper. His one-day record, except against Bangladesh, is still poor, but he has played some gritty Test innings and might well have a Test century to his credit had he not been sawn off in the nineties in India just over a year ago.

And sawn off he was again, twice, adjudged lbw, at the Riverside. An inside-edge in the first innings did not spare him from David Orchard's finger; in the second, the trigger-happy Darrell Hair failed to appreciate that the ball was missing leg stump. Both errors were clear on television.

But at least in the second innings Ebrahim had the opportunity to display his fighting skills with a gritty 55. Zimbabwe, their morale shattered by their first-innings collapse, had to follow-on and needed somebody to lay anchor and yet keep the score moving at the same time. Ebrahim did both superbly.

He has suffered in the past from the jibes of other Zimbabweans who have resented the favouritism shown him by the selectors. One of the nicest of men, he deserved better than that and not even his detractors could claim it was his fault. Now, hopefully, he can show enough form and consistency in the future to justify his place.

Grant Flower has had a disappointing Test series in England again, with only 71 runs in eight completed innings in the country. He had a good decision from Hair, given not out to an appeal for a catch at the wicket off his forearm, but next ball played a bad, diagonal-bat shot outside off stump to drag the ball on to his wicket.

Just to emphasise Zimbabwe's appalling fortunes, Heath Streak fell victim to cricket's most unfair law: run out backing up exactly as he should have done, and then finding the bowler fortuitously knocking a straight drive - which he should have caught - on to the stumps at the bowler's end. Is there nobody else out there who sees this as a law that needs to be changed? There is very rarely any doubt as to whether the knock-on by the bowler is intentional or not.

It was good to see another fine second innings from Travis Friend. Now he must learn to do it first time round, under pressure. The same can be said for most of the team.

As for the umpiring, it didn't change the result, but it certainly shortened the match and destroyed it as a contest. Even the most respected members of the ICC elite panel have had bad matches. How much longer are we going to wait for the ICC to bite the bullet and allow technology to assist in eliminating avoidable errors?