England lodge complaint over Smith reprieve
England have announced they intend to lodge an official complaint following Graeme Smith's controversial reprieve by the third umpire, Daryl Harper, during the second day of the fourth and final Test at Johannesburg.
Smith, who top-scored for South Africa with 105, his 20th Test century, appeared to be given a let-off on 15 when he attempted a cut against Ryan Sidebottom and appeared to feather a nick through to the keeper, Matt Prior.
Although the onfield umpire, Tony Hill, initially turned down England's appeals, the captain, Andrew Strauss, immediately used one of his team's two reviews, and the TV replays seemed to indicate an audible snick as the ball passed the bat.
However, Harper upheld the onfield decision, claiming that he could not hear any noise on the replay that he was being shown in the third umpire's booth. An angry England coach, Andy Flower, claimed that this was because he had the volume too low on his television set, and confirmed that an official complaint was being made to the match referee, Roshan Mahanama.
"He has obviously hit it because you can hear the nick on the replays," said Flower. "I don't blame him for standing but certainly with the technology available and everyone can hear the nick on referral, I find it very surprising that he hasn't been given out."
Umpire Harper was at the centre of a previous review controversy involving England on their tour of the Caribbean in the spring, and Flower did not seek to mince his words. "I am not surprised he didn't hear it because he didn't turn the volume up on his speaker," he said. "I find it strange if you are listening for a nick you don't turn the volume up on your speaker."
The initial belief, among confused commentators, was that the SABC feed used by the third umpire must have come from a different source to those used by Sky and Supersport, on which the noise was clearly audible. However, after seeking clarification from Mahanama, Flower discovered that this was not the case.
"We found out that wasn't correct and one audio feed is used for everyone, and the second time [Mahanama] said that Daryl Harper had not switched up the volume on his mike and that is why we have heard the nick but the third umpire hasn't. If it wasn't such a serious match for us I would have found it amusing, I think it's very disappointing.
"They said they did not deem it necessary to turn up the volume. But in the pre-series match referees meeting both Dave Richardson from the ICC and Mahanama explained on caught-behind referrals the volume would be turned up."
For cost reasons, neither Snickometer nor HotSpot are being used in this series despite their successful application in other parts of the world, a state of affairs that Flower described as "illogical". "We were assured that, because we don't have that technology available, they would turn up the volume to listen for nicks," he added. "They didn't do that today and I find that hard to understand."
Smith, for his part, did not deny there had been a noise, but maintained that he had stood his ground with good reason. "There definitely was a noise but I didn't feel I'd touched the ball," he said. "Even talking to Ashwell [Prince] as the review was going on I didn't feel the ball hit the bat. That can happen, maybe it did, maybe it didn't.
"I thought it was my thumb on the bat handle, and I still don't feel like I hit it."