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August 10, 2008
The review of umpiring decisions, being trialled in the series, has already generated a lot of attention and did so again on Saturday, when a confident appeal by India for an lbw against Thilan Samaraweera was turned down initially by the on-field umpire and then on review.
Samaraweera was struck on the pad by a ball from Anil Kumble but it appeared as if he might have got an inside edge. However, replays showed ball hitting pad before bat, and it appeared as though the ball would have gone on to hit the middle stump three-fourths of the way up. The decision, though, was upheld and Samaraweera, then on 5, went on to score 35.
Mark Benson was the on-field umpire involved in that decision, and he admitted it had been a hard day at work. "It has been a tough day for the umpires; there have been three decisions overturned but in the end of the day the correct decision has been made and we have to live with it," he told broadcaster Ten Sports after the day's play. "It's not easy with all these bat-pads and these mystery spinners (read Ajantha Mendis). It's a trial and the review system has got to be for the obvious mistakes. It can only be for good if we get rid of the obvious mistake"
There were seven review calls made by both teams on Saturday. Benson and Rudi Koertzen were the two on-field umpires, with Billy Doctrove standing as the third umpire. Benson had a few suggestions for improving the system.
"The review system needs to get the HotSpot in," he said. Benson also said perhaps the review should check if the entire ball pitched outside the line of leg stump in case of leg-before decisions, instead of looking at percentages. Currently, the rule states that more than 50% of the ball must pitch in line with the leg stump, whereas for the impact of the ball on pad, as long as a part of the ball is in line with the stumps the batsman can be given out.
The present review system uses the Virtual Eye technology, which maps where the ball pitched and the point where it hit the pad, and predicts where the ball will hit the stumps (though this is not available to the third umpire due to doubts over its accuracy). However, the system produced a gaffe when it failed to detect a deflection from Virender Sehwag's front pad onto the back pad in India's second innings at the SSC, and showed the impact of the ball in line with where it hit the back pad, but at a distance from the stumps where his front pad was. Third umpire Rudi Koertzen too failed to point out the glaring error to the on-field umpire.
Sri Lanka have had the better of the review system so far in the series, with captain Mahela Jayawardene particularly making some superb calls in the field on the first day of the Test, with lbw shouts against Rahul Dravid and Gautam Gambhir, initially given not-out by the on-field umpire, were upheld on review. Trevor Bayliss, the Sri Lanka coach, was for the system. "We've had a number decisions turned around in our favour. The other way of looking at it is sitting here and complaining about seven or eight wrong ones," he said on Saturday. "In fact we had those turned around. I think it's doing its job. There are one or two areas that have to be cleaned up a little bit. But from our point of view we are reasonably happy the way it has gone."
Bayliss felt the review system would balance the contest between bat and ball. "Everyone says the game is a batsman's game. I think the review system might be a little bit of a comeback for the bowlers. There will be more outs than not outs. All the bowlers should be pretty happy that the review system is in place."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.