England v West Indies, 3rd Test, Old Trafford, 2nd day June 8, 2007

England let off after practice gaffe

Cricinfo staff
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Allan Donald: supervised practice session between innings © Getty Images

England's wayward seamers, Steve Harmison and Liam Plunkett, escaped punishment from the match referee Alan Hurst after they were seen bowling on the square between innings on the second day of the third Test at Old Trafford, in contravention of the match regulations.

The bowlers, who have both been struggling for form this series, were joined in the middle by England's assistant coaches, Andy Flower and Allan Donald, in what appeared to be a last-ditch attempt to locate their rhythm before the start of the innings. The Fourth umpire, Rob Bailey, walked to the middle to stop the practice, and though there was speculation that Harmison might be prevented from taking the new ball, no action was taken.

The West Indies management issued a formal complaint after the incident, for Law 17.1 states: "There shall be no bowling or batting practice on the pitch, or on the area parallel and immediately adjacent to the pitch at any time or any day of the match. There shall be no bowling or batting practice on any other part of the square on any day of the match, except before the start of play on that day."

Under the regulations, bowlers found guilty of breaking the rule should be prevented from bowling for 30 minutes' playing time after the offence. Hurst, however, declined to enforce the penalty. "The matter was dealt with at the time," he said in a statement. "There will be no further action. Common sense prevailed and the players were asked to move off the square."

We just wanted some clarification on what was going on," said West Indies' coach David Moore. "We wanted to know what the issues were and what the ramifications of those issues were. We had a discussion with the match referee and he told us that the fourth umpire had asked them to move off and they did so immediately."

In the event, the session was of little help to Harmison, who was once again off target - except with two memorable deliveries that did away with the captain, Daren Ganga, and Runako Morton.

"Morton got a good ball, no doubt about that," said Moore. "He was on 35 and got a ball off a good length which clipped the shoulder of the bat. That's a good delivery and we know Steve Harmison can do that all the time. I've seen him bowl pretty well in a number of series and he's a pretty dangerous bowler.

"The minute he hits his length, and his straps, he is a very difficult customer to deal with. You can never relax against him because he can always bowl a good ball."