Run-out recall 'an easy decision'
The Spirit of Cricket occupied centre-stage at the Champions Trophy once again, and after sparing Paul Collingwood, who had been declared run out after wandering out of his crease, Daniel Vettori said it was an easy decision to make.
Andrew Strauss had made a similar decision in England's opening match against Sri Lanka by recalling Angelo Mathews, who had been stranded after a mid-pitch collision with Graham Onions, and Strauss praised Vettori's decision, which he described as the right one.
Vettori's gesture was more significant for two reasons. There was no case of obstruction in this instance, and Collingwood had no one to blame but himself for venturing out his crease. Secondly, it was a do-or-die match for New Zealand.
"It was a tough decision to make as a captain when your future in the tournament is on the line," Strauss said. "New Zealand were well within their rights to appeal. Obviously Colly was not going for a run, but he was hasty in leaving the crease."
It was an ironic turn of events since Collingwood was captaining England when New Zealand's Grant Elliott had been run out after a mid-pitch collision with Ryan Sidebottom at The Oval last year. The umpires were obliged to rule him out, but Collingwood's refusal to withdraw the appeal had infuriated Vettori and invited widespread criticism from the media.
The incident took place in the 11th over with England struggling at 27 for 3 on a bouncy pitch at the Wanderers. Collingwood had just survived a snorter from Kyle Mills, which flew off a length and whizzed past the batsman's nose on its way to Brendon McCullum.
It was the last ball of the over and Collingwood, taking it for granted that over had been called, had begun walking down the pitch. McCullum, always alert to such situations, under-armed the ball in a flash and the New Zealanders appealed.
Asad Rauf, the square-leg umpire, was already walking in and looking down, so he referred the decision to Aleem Dar, his colleague in the box. Confusion reigned as the umpire at the bowler's end, Daryl Harper, put his arm around Rauf's shoulders and took him away for a chat.
"It was one of those situations when we had a little time to think about it," Vettori said. "When it went to the third umpire, I deliberated with my team-mates, and the umpires. It was obvious that there was no intention of a run, Colly had wandered down the pitch, and it was a lot easier to call him back and get on with the game.
"According to the laws of the game, it was probably out, but of late we have discussed a lot about the spirit of the game."
Both the captains were of the opinion that Spirit of Cricket was becoming an issue cricketers were concerned with. "It's catching on,'' Strauss said.
"I think no one wants to come to a press conference and answer those tough questions," Vettori said, in jest at first. Turning serious, he added: "I think it is in the forefront on the lot of people's mind."
But Strauss found himself fronting up to questions about the spirit of the game after a visibly cramping Graeme Smith was disallowed a runner at SuperSport Park during his valiant 141. As it turned out, Strauss shouldn't have had to defend himself because the matter had been long taken out of the fielding captain's hands, and the call had been made by the umpires on the field.
In another all-too-similar incident back in December 2006, a Muttiah Muralitharan dismissal during the first Test between New Zealand and Sri Lanka at Christchurch was also the subject of controversy.
Kumar Sangakkara had whipped a Shane Bond delivery down to fine leg for a single to bring up his century. Murali having touched down at the striker's end, turned around and left his crease to congratulate Sangakkara. McCullum was quick to whip off the bails as the throw came in, to run out Murali.
Sambit Bal is the editor of Cricinfo