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England's mindset has been affected by the ongoing controversy surrounding the review system
January 16, 2010
It's dangerous to write off this England team after their last-ditch escapes at Centurion and Cape Town, but they require a miracle if they are to leave South Africa with the Basil D'Oliveira Trophy in their clutches. They have been comprehensively outplayed over the last three days and their mindset has been affected by the ongoing controversy surrounding the review system.
With all the fall-out over Graeme Smith's non-dismissal on the second morning you could be forgiven for thinking that one moment has handed South Africa the Test. That would do the home side a great disservice as they'd already done a major part of their job by routing England for 180 on the opening day.
However, Smith's reprieve sucked the fight out of England who have become increasingly angered during the game, so much so that their grievances have been ushered all the way to the ICC. Giles Clarke, the ECB chairman, was making his absolute dislike of the review system abundantly clear as play unfolded on the third day.
England's mood wasn't improved when AB de Villiers was reprieved after he'd been given out caught at leg slip, sweeping Graeme Swann, with Daryl Harper again under the spotlight with questions asked whether there was enough evidence to overturn Tony Hill's on-field decision. De Villiers was on 11 at the time, and South Africa would have been 241 for 6 with the new ball around the corner.
That left England with one review, that they later wasted on an lbw appeal against Mark Boucher, which meant they had none left when de Villiers, now on 41, appeared to get an inside-edge to the keeper off Ryan Sidebottom. With such negative vibes floating around it was hardly surprising they slumped to 48 for 3 by the close - although again, it was South Africa's relentless seam attack who deserved all the credit for that.
Sidebottom was also the bowler when Smith was given not out on 15 on the second morning, and he added his voice to those who believe that the review system will only work if all technology, including Hotspot, is used. Otherwise it would be preferable to return all decision-making to the standing umpires.
"We are fairly frustrated as a team but it's out of our hands," he said. "If you are going to use the system then use all of it, and if not - I'm quite old-fashioned myself - there's two guys out there paid to do a job and give decisions. Whether they give it out or not the decision is final and we'd be happy with that. It's pretty simple and I think that's how it should be done."
He added that the system, which has also overturned clear mistakes during this series, shouldn't be being trialled at the highest level, and that the umpires needed more training. "I think it would be nice to have it tested before you play in such important Tests," he said. "Maybe use it in county cricket, or if umpires use it before they come into big games, that would help. Important decisions can change a game."
Sidebottom admitted the controversy probably played a part in England's poor performance. "I wouldn't say mentally, but we are all human and you are allowed to be aggrieved and get frustrated but you just have to get on with it. It may have, it may not have, we've just tried to give it our best."
Mark Boucher, who made 95 to set up South Africa's declaration, also believed the visitors had been affected by the decision-making process. "We also went through a period in Durban when we probably thought one or two of the decisions hadn't gone our way," he said. "That tends to happen when you are behind the eight-ball.
"I'm a firm believer that you make your own look, myself and AB [de Villiers] played nice and aggressively and the luck went our way. That's just the way the game goes.
"The game has always been like that and probably always will be no matter what technology you bring in. We have been the side who have probably wanted it more and you have seen that in the performance. That's probably why things have gone our way. But at the beginning of the series we were told Hotspot wouldn't be there and as players there isn't much you can do about it."
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