England v Australia, 3rd Investec Test, Old Trafford, 4th day August 4, 2013

Cricket retreats to dark ages

An arbitrary decision about when it is safe to play has endangered Australia's chances of reclaiming the urn
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Last year, the ICC legalised day-night Test cricket. It didn't seem to matter that a suitable ball had not been found. By the letter of the law, agreement between two countries is all that is required. If Pakistan and Bangladesh feel like playing from 6pm in Dubai with an orange ball, they can. If West Indies and New Zealand want to play from 2pm in St Lucia with a pink ball, that's allowed. Cricket wants to modernise at any cost, appeal to a wider audience. A television audience.

Perhaps cricket can start by satisfying the audience it already has. And they were far from satisfied on Sunday evening. The Ashes is Test cricket's shop window and over the past four days at Old Trafford, the players have delivered an enticing product. But at 4.25pm, Tony Hill and Marais Erasmus unilaterally put up the 'closed' sign. It was, they said, for the good of the players. Someone could have got hurt. But every ball lost from the match hurt the Australians far more than any James Anderson might have sent down in the gloom.

And it can only be the Australia batsmen they were worried about. That became clear when Erasmus confirmed that play would have continued had England bowled spin. The shadow, then, was not enough to endanger England's fielders, or the umpires themselves. A vicious Michael Clarke drive would have sent the red ball flying towards them as quickly off Graeme Swann as it would have off Anderson. No, this had to be about the safety of the batsmen.

The playing conditions stipulate that the umpires can abandon play when the light is "so bad that there is obvious and foreseeable risk to the safety of any player or umpire". But Australia's No. 9, Ryan Harris, didn't have much trouble handling Anderson when he faced what became the last few deliveries of the day. Clarke was seeing the ball fine. He made that clear to the umpires at length during an animated discussion after they had made their call.

"When we start losing it completely from square leg, we give the skipper an option, as we did out here, to bowl spin and he didn't want to do that," Hill said. Of course Alastair Cook didn't bowl spin. He is not an idiot. Every delivery lost from the match tightens England's grip on the urn. He'd have been happy with an 11.01am abandonment.

"For a while there the England fielders were asking about the light and the possibility for when they bat," Erasmus said. "It was fine, but it kept on dropping and dropping then we eventually told the captain to bowl spin and he decided not to which pushed our hand. There was a safety issue and we can't carry on."

Of course they could have carried on, and should have. Cricket wants to modernise but these judgements, these arbitrary decisions not to play, do nothing but hurt the game. Traditionally, batsmen were offered the choice of playing on or leaving the field due to bad light. But in 2010 the ICC altered the rule, in part so that batsmen could not make tactical decisions to go off. The change has sent cricket further back into the dark ages.

Handing control to the umpires is a common-sense approach only if the umpires use common sense. And there has been precious little of that shown by the officials in this series. Of course, if the abandonment costs Australia a chance at regaining the urn, it will do so only because of their own failings at Trent Bridge and Lord's. That is why they are in this position.

But the half hour lost on Sunday - rain arrived at 5pm - could make all the difference in a contest that might go to the wire on day five. Thirty minutes of moderate dullness could cast a gloom over the Tests at Chester-le-Street and The Oval if they become dead rubbers.

There was a frustrating postscript: from 7 to 8pm the sun was shining at Old Trafford and the rain had well and truly cleared. The conditions were perfect for cricket. But by then, the players and umpires were back at their hotels, perhaps with a tray of room service. If they had the TV on, they might have been watching themselves on replay, while millions of viewers could have been seeing them live in prime time.

The ICC seems to have a laissez faire approach to the day-night Test prospect. Perhaps it could throw a little of that flexibility the way of old-fashioned red-ball Tests.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • on August 5, 2013, 4:05 GMT

    I personally think ICC should wake up and do something concrete to this gentleman's game. Their recent rules messed up cricket. For example only umpires can decide about the light. Clarke would have batted if given the choice because it was in his advantage. Secondly this 'umpire's call' should be deleted now with technology. If the' hotspot or hawk eyes' show out, then decision should be changed. Let's bring credit to the game not go backwards.

  • arsalansallu on August 6, 2013, 8:09 GMT

    talking about the light issue, all the cricket loving people were quiet when the light affected the test match between Pakistan & England in Karachi... the light then was so bad that fielders were not even able to see the ball going past them, but the umpires favored the English batsmen, and continued the game even after sunset. As the affected team was Pakistan, there was no article, no debate, no discussion, nothing.... this ICC pushed the cricket to dark ages many years back.. people only realize when nations like Australia, India or England are the affected ones!

  • mixters on August 6, 2013, 7:33 GMT

    No one is concerned about batsmen safety when the quicks are belting them in the ribs in bright sun. So why are they concerned when it gets dark, in fact why turn on the lights they were on a old trafford but still off we went. It seems a very strange rule change to worry about the bowling teams safety when batsman are faceing the 85mph balls

  • Derdeman on August 6, 2013, 7:02 GMT

    @Fenton Price: Erasmus was judged, by his peers, the ICC panel that reviews the performance of umpires and fortunately for the game of cricket, not by the press or the fans, to have made one mistake in each of the 2nd and 3rd tests. The norm for the elite panel is 3 to 4 mistakes per test. The only dreadful time the umpires have is when they read silly comments in the media.

    Re bad light: It is not only the batsmen to consider, fielders in the deep do not have a sight screen to assist seeing the ball.

  • Vindaliew on August 6, 2013, 6:22 GMT

    indiafan76 - we're (at least some of us) are not complaining that the umpires' decision cost Australia the match - like you said, it wouldn't have made any difference to the match at all. It's the principle behind the umpires calling it a day for bad light when the batsmen are still able to go on. Can you imagine if it was day 5, and Australia needed another 50 runs to win with 8 wickets remaining, and the umpires said "nope, you can't bat because it's too dangerous for you as Cook won't use spinners". Imagine if England were asked to stop back in Karachi, 2000-01, with Hick and Thorpe slowly plugging away and Moin Khan, rightly, deciding not to use spinners. We would have been denied one of the more memorable Tests in recent years.

  • indiafan76 on August 6, 2013, 4:06 GMT

    Not a lot of logical arguments in here. Say, Australia were able to bat longer on the 4th day... They would've made 50-100 runs more, but as soon as England came out to bat they would've walked off under bad light. Then they would come back today as it anyway happened. So the umpires walking off for bad light did not have any bearings on the end result in this match... The rain did. They need to legalize day-night test matches in cases of interruption like this to force results.

  • gdalvi on August 6, 2013, 3:55 GMT

    For all the fuss about use of technology - first thing ICC must do is add 2 spare days to a test match (and one for 1-day) to compensate any weather disruptions. After all the effort put by players (and emotions by fans), it seems like utter waste if test match is drawn due to weather rather than grit of the players. And of course the debacle of Champions Trophy final is still fresh with us. Then this kind of issues won't happen and everyone will get their money's worth. Also allow non-neutral umpires - if both sides are OK with it. First take care of these really simple things, before trying to more complicated like DRS - which they any ways screwed up royally. Please post.

  • Vindaliew on August 6, 2013, 0:57 GMT

    willrustynuts - no, England should never be forced to bowl spin, but if Australia are willing to play in near darkness and take bouncers to their faces and throats, risking their personal health to try and get a result the umpires should respect that and not stop play simply because they think they know better than the batsmen as to what is acceptable safety. The issue is not that Cook refused to bowl spin (only an idiot would have acquiesced in the circumstances - he had every right to say no, and made the right decision) but that by refusing to do so, he could effectively dictate when Australia had to come off for bad light when it was Australia's, and not England's, safety at stake. The umpires should be there to facilitate the game and to ensure that it is played fairly, and if the batsmen are willing to brave the bad light play should continue. It's not like the bowlers' or fielders' safety was at stake.

  • bulldawgs on August 5, 2013, 22:10 GMT

    What about the Karachi Test that England won while batting in the dark after sunset?

  • willsrustynuts on August 5, 2013, 19:54 GMT

    Vindaliew - so it is commonsense for the batsmen to tell the bowling team who they can or cannot bowl but not for the impartial umpires to make the call to take the players off?

    Are you suggesting that it would have been OK if England were forced to bowl spin and Australia scored 8 an over of them and then went on to win in bright sunshine with their fast bowlers throwing them down?

    It's just not cricket my dear old thing.

  • on August 5, 2013, 4:05 GMT

    I personally think ICC should wake up and do something concrete to this gentleman's game. Their recent rules messed up cricket. For example only umpires can decide about the light. Clarke would have batted if given the choice because it was in his advantage. Secondly this 'umpire's call' should be deleted now with technology. If the' hotspot or hawk eyes' show out, then decision should be changed. Let's bring credit to the game not go backwards.

  • arsalansallu on August 6, 2013, 8:09 GMT

    talking about the light issue, all the cricket loving people were quiet when the light affected the test match between Pakistan & England in Karachi... the light then was so bad that fielders were not even able to see the ball going past them, but the umpires favored the English batsmen, and continued the game even after sunset. As the affected team was Pakistan, there was no article, no debate, no discussion, nothing.... this ICC pushed the cricket to dark ages many years back.. people only realize when nations like Australia, India or England are the affected ones!

  • mixters on August 6, 2013, 7:33 GMT

    No one is concerned about batsmen safety when the quicks are belting them in the ribs in bright sun. So why are they concerned when it gets dark, in fact why turn on the lights they were on a old trafford but still off we went. It seems a very strange rule change to worry about the bowling teams safety when batsman are faceing the 85mph balls

  • Derdeman on August 6, 2013, 7:02 GMT

    @Fenton Price: Erasmus was judged, by his peers, the ICC panel that reviews the performance of umpires and fortunately for the game of cricket, not by the press or the fans, to have made one mistake in each of the 2nd and 3rd tests. The norm for the elite panel is 3 to 4 mistakes per test. The only dreadful time the umpires have is when they read silly comments in the media.

    Re bad light: It is not only the batsmen to consider, fielders in the deep do not have a sight screen to assist seeing the ball.

  • Vindaliew on August 6, 2013, 6:22 GMT

    indiafan76 - we're (at least some of us) are not complaining that the umpires' decision cost Australia the match - like you said, it wouldn't have made any difference to the match at all. It's the principle behind the umpires calling it a day for bad light when the batsmen are still able to go on. Can you imagine if it was day 5, and Australia needed another 50 runs to win with 8 wickets remaining, and the umpires said "nope, you can't bat because it's too dangerous for you as Cook won't use spinners". Imagine if England were asked to stop back in Karachi, 2000-01, with Hick and Thorpe slowly plugging away and Moin Khan, rightly, deciding not to use spinners. We would have been denied one of the more memorable Tests in recent years.

  • indiafan76 on August 6, 2013, 4:06 GMT

    Not a lot of logical arguments in here. Say, Australia were able to bat longer on the 4th day... They would've made 50-100 runs more, but as soon as England came out to bat they would've walked off under bad light. Then they would come back today as it anyway happened. So the umpires walking off for bad light did not have any bearings on the end result in this match... The rain did. They need to legalize day-night test matches in cases of interruption like this to force results.

  • gdalvi on August 6, 2013, 3:55 GMT

    For all the fuss about use of technology - first thing ICC must do is add 2 spare days to a test match (and one for 1-day) to compensate any weather disruptions. After all the effort put by players (and emotions by fans), it seems like utter waste if test match is drawn due to weather rather than grit of the players. And of course the debacle of Champions Trophy final is still fresh with us. Then this kind of issues won't happen and everyone will get their money's worth. Also allow non-neutral umpires - if both sides are OK with it. First take care of these really simple things, before trying to more complicated like DRS - which they any ways screwed up royally. Please post.

  • Vindaliew on August 6, 2013, 0:57 GMT

    willrustynuts - no, England should never be forced to bowl spin, but if Australia are willing to play in near darkness and take bouncers to their faces and throats, risking their personal health to try and get a result the umpires should respect that and not stop play simply because they think they know better than the batsmen as to what is acceptable safety. The issue is not that Cook refused to bowl spin (only an idiot would have acquiesced in the circumstances - he had every right to say no, and made the right decision) but that by refusing to do so, he could effectively dictate when Australia had to come off for bad light when it was Australia's, and not England's, safety at stake. The umpires should be there to facilitate the game and to ensure that it is played fairly, and if the batsmen are willing to brave the bad light play should continue. It's not like the bowlers' or fielders' safety was at stake.

  • bulldawgs on August 5, 2013, 22:10 GMT

    What about the Karachi Test that England won while batting in the dark after sunset?

  • willsrustynuts on August 5, 2013, 19:54 GMT

    Vindaliew - so it is commonsense for the batsmen to tell the bowling team who they can or cannot bowl but not for the impartial umpires to make the call to take the players off?

    Are you suggesting that it would have been OK if England were forced to bowl spin and Australia scored 8 an over of them and then went on to win in bright sunshine with their fast bowlers throwing them down?

    It's just not cricket my dear old thing.

  • Kirstenfan on August 5, 2013, 18:08 GMT

    And then on course on day 5, after we've lost time, there is still a 40 minute lunch break! It is ridiculous

  • on August 5, 2013, 17:23 GMT

    Marais Erasmus has had a dreadful time so far in this series and his position as a member of the elite panel of umpires must be in question.

    @Newlandsfaithful - "real gentlemanly of the English". How do you know the culprits were English?

  • on August 5, 2013, 17:05 GMT

    Another in the long list of farcical decisions that has come to almost characterise cricket umpiring and refereeing.

  • willsrustynuts on August 5, 2013, 16:36 GMT

    Apparently amidst all this wonderful forensic umpiring and bad light there was a cricket match taking place... although we only get reports on umpiring.

    The truth is Clarke messed up by declaring the first innings. I never saw such a poor act of captaincy before ... declaring the first innings is for 4 day games not test matches.

  • Vindaliew on August 5, 2013, 16:16 GMT

    What's the point of denying batsmen the tactical decision to go off when now the bowling team can make the tactical decision to go off simply by not changing to spin? If the batsmen are happy with that then commonsense should prevail.

  • Newlandsfaithful on August 5, 2013, 15:49 GMT

    I like the bit where the fielding English side exert pressure on the umpires to consider the light... real "gentlemanly" of the English, and of course some real backbone shown by the umpires. If we had tried to badger the umpires during our school matches, we would have got an earful not repeatable on Cricinfo.

  • on August 5, 2013, 15:39 GMT

    I too have to comment on the DRS. It has become the laughing stock of cricket. Firstly, it is used tactically rather than for it's original intention of eliminating "howlers" and secondly, more often than not, the decision taken by the DRS umpire is fast BECOMING the "howler" itself!! Go figure!! And what's all this nonsense about "umpire's call?" The ball IS either hitting the wickets or it ISN'T. Two batsmen can face the exact same ball with one batsman being given out LBW and the other being given not out - just so that the poor umpires can feel they still have "control" of the game. Sorry ICC, but DRS is actually driving me away from the game - at least while it's being used in it's current form.

  • gbqdgj on August 5, 2013, 15:21 GMT

    Isn't it a bit odd that the ABE (Anyone But England) crowd on here always whine about poor umpiring, poor DRS, poor judgement of the light etc etc but when it's their team playing England it's perfectly acceptable. I was at Manchester yesterday and it was pretty dark when they came off, have I played in darker conditions, yes...have I seen test match cricket played in darker conditions...NO! In the days when it was up to captains to decide then obviously the captain played the light question according to the state of the game. There seems to be a lot said about Karachi...remember the reason why they played on so late and in near darkness? It was because Steve Bucknor offered the light to the England batsmen as was the correct law at the time who said no. It got ridiculous because the fielders could hardly see the ball and the reason why SB kept them out there was because the Pakistan tactics were to bowl their overs so slowly (8 overs per hour at one point).

  • 2MikeGattings on August 5, 2013, 14:34 GMT

    Losing 3 overs of play before the rain set in damaged Australia's chance of retaining the Ashes? Maybe if the batsmen had turned up in the first two tests. A clutched straw if ever I heard one.

  • tahalateef on August 5, 2013, 13:06 GMT

    @Naveen Rao: Pretty much agree with you.

  • tahalateef on August 5, 2013, 12:54 GMT

    Does anyone remember the 3rd Test between Pakistan and England in Karachi in December 2000 in near darkness where the umpires insisted on continuing the match right until sunset and where fielders couldn't even spot the ball in the outfield. Yesterday was very mild compared to that.

  • Dupsie on August 5, 2013, 11:19 GMT

    Can somebody please explain the purpose of the ICC to me?

    They create rules that ruin the game for the spectator and teams alike.

    They do no hold any on the umpires accountable for the stupid misktakes they make.

    They are afaid of the BCCI

    Their attempts at scheduling an proper 50 over world cup has been a joke

    PLEASE somebody explain to me their purpose?

  • bobmartin on August 5, 2013, 10:57 GMT

    @ kingkarthik.... You have it 100% right....and if I ever hear another Aussie call the English "whinging Poms" I'll refer them to this test series..where it's been proved in several occasions that we can now beat them at sledging and they can beat us at whinging... We have the Ashes and they have the WWT.... the World Whinging Trophy

  • on August 5, 2013, 10:49 GMT

    The ICC have the rule correct, we dont want to see the farcical situation we had in 2002 in Auckland where a Test was being played in the dark but under lights.

  • Rowayton on August 5, 2013, 10:16 GMT

    chrissharrat, the problem with draconian run penalties is that if a side is playing primarily for a draw, as England appeared to be, why would they care about run penalties? So they,d be chasing 400 instead of 330. Wouldn't make any difference.

  • shane-oh on August 5, 2013, 10:11 GMT

    So we are now at the point of complaining about the Umpires doing the correct thing as required by the rules. Or is it that we think it is their fault that weather isn't co-operating? Good grief, what next?

  • indianpunter on August 5, 2013, 10:07 GMT

    The umpires made a mistake by asking Cook to bowl spin form both ends. If the light is thought to be a hazard to anyone ( fielders, batsmen or umpires), the umpires have the right to suspend play. It was clearly unsafe. The england players were losing sight of the ball in the outfield, much before critical light deterioration. If you are 2-0 down after 2 tests, you probably are not going to win the next 3. and @Baundele, Haddin indeed nicked the ball in the first test. He admitted to it.

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on August 5, 2013, 10:05 GMT

    It must have been dark though - I can't see the umpires legs in the photo!

    I can't believe in 2013, there is a shortage of reliable light meters out there. Why do the umpires/ICC not just get standardised, strictly calibrated light meters and come up with a suitable value 'X' - and publish a clear and concise statement/law that covers world cricket: "Light meter shows less than or equal 'X' = not suitable for any cricket."

    P.S. nice pun in the title there Brydon!

  • chrissharratt on August 5, 2013, 9:50 GMT

    With the very poor weather forecast for today why didn't Michael Clarke declare on the spot (a lead of 331 would surely be enough on a rain interrupted final day and in the final analysis only a victory can help Australia's cause). That would have allowed him to have 20 minutes at England's openers with his spinners before the rain came and possibly have led to a breakthrough. The more pressing problem for the ICC to address is over rates. To see international cricketers deliberately refusing to entertain a crowd that has paid a huge amount of money to watch them play is sickening. Would it not be possible to introduce a similar system to golf whereby if a side falls behind a specific over rate they are "put on the clock" and required to bowl at a rate necessary to get them back on track? During this period no mid-pitch conferences or other timewasting methods would be allowed and failure to comply would lead to draconian penalty run sanctions. Let's cut this cowardice from the sport.

  • on August 5, 2013, 9:48 GMT

    "Handing control to the umpires is a common-sense approach only if the umpires use common sense"..Absolutely, the whole series has been robbed of its sheen by the stupid umpiring.

  • cozens on August 5, 2013, 9:48 GMT

    The current standing of the match should not influence the umpires desicion making. of course we all want to see cricket - especially those who paid for a ticket, BUT the umpires are given a job and they have to make decisions without any emotions fixed to them. Just because Aus are chasing the win doens't matter a jot. If this game was heading for a dull draw and this decision was made, would there be the same level of annoyance ?

  • on August 5, 2013, 9:45 GMT

    The point about the umpires being the sole judge of the fitness of conditions for play is actually in the laws of cricket - law 3:8 - it is not just an ICC edict. But Bryon, your comment "handing control to the umpires is a common-sense approach only if the umpires use common sense" is absolutely spot-on.

  • RaadQ on August 5, 2013, 9:41 GMT

    I think this is an odd decision by the ICC to alter the rule. Here, obviously the bowling side made a tactical decision, thus the rule change hasn't eliminated tactical changes but rather the side which makes that tactical decision. I think the ICC should have left the rule as it, with two conditions: (1) the teams are only allowed to walk off when the umpires decide, not the players (2) the bowling side should first be given the option to bowl spin, and if they reject this option, then the batting side should be given the option to bat on or walk off. Since the batsmen will be the most in-danger during bad light, no other player or official thereafter has an excuse to walk off after the batsmen have decided to stay on, unless the danger is definite and the batsmen are endangering themselves on purpose to save/win a game. "Definite" being obviously defined as a few deliveries which the batsmen obviously fail to pick up...

  • Srini_Indian on August 5, 2013, 9:29 GMT

    @5wombats: Nagpur pitch was tougher than this Manchester pitch? The pitch got flattened out in Nagpur in last couple of days and would have taken another 4 days to yield a result there. You still fancy prediction after your initial prediction of England win irrespective of toss came a cropper?

  • on August 5, 2013, 9:16 GMT

    This England side is a good side, But their tactic and the way they have approached this match shows they are not a great side. If they really want to be remembered as a great side then they should take a leaf out of some of the old Australian sides, the 2006-07 side is a perfect example. They didn't play for draws, they pushed on and won and any cost. Good sides are ruthless and aren't satisfied with draws.

  • on August 5, 2013, 9:02 GMT

    Well when the aussies was on top a couple of yrs back the umpires use to do everything for them to win so they getting back thier treatment even though i hate england the mosr

  • Narkovian on August 5, 2013, 8:59 GMT

    Umpires, or is it ICC, need to sort out quite a few things don't they ??!! They are so slow to act on things which seem obvious to us. Floodlights and bad light are only one. Dangerous to players.. my foot. DRS interpretation another. BUT one thing really gets to me. All this coming and going of substitutes. People seem to just leave the field for no apparent reason.Bowler bowls 5 overs.. off he goes for a drink and a rest. Even Captains seem to go off for a couple of overs( presumably to discuss tactics?) . KP seems to spend half his time off the field. Broad/Swann likewise. The likes of Trottl/Root/Bairstow.. never ! The laws say subs are only allowed for illness or injury. Just stop it now. It is getting farcical. Umpires:just uphold the laws please.

  • Baundele on August 5, 2013, 8:52 GMT

    The umpires in this Ashes have come up with ridiculous decisions at crucial times. Australia were within 14 runs of winning the first test, when a wrong umpiring decision undid all the hard work. For the sake of cricket, umpire's power should be reduced. They act like dictators.

  • Nutcutlet on August 5, 2013, 7:51 GMT

    Yet another item for the ICC's 'to-fix' list. Item: how to apply common sense.

  • muzika_tchaikovskogo on August 5, 2013, 7:27 GMT

    @SaudSami: I remember the Karachi test, but the decision to go off was in the hands of the batting side back in that era (its been 13 years since then) but the rules have changed since then. The present rules leave the decision to go off for bad light entirely to the umpires, which is what happened yesterday. I don't see where's the twisting of rules there- and I'm not English.

  • milepost on August 5, 2013, 7:03 GMT

    Coverdale is normally pretty neutral so I think comments about him 'whinging' as an Aussie are pretty unfair. Cricket fans just want to see cricket, that's all. England's lack of instinct to win will always keep them from being a top side. Beating on a side we all know is struggling is hardly any reason to walk around like a peacock! Hats off to the teams I think we had a glint of some decent contests in this match which the series really needed.

  • SirViv1973 on August 5, 2013, 6:51 GMT

    @MACCA32, In the context of the match, yes it was ok because at best Aus lost 1 over of bowling at Eng. If they had lost significant time that may have genuinely affected them getting a result then this would have been a valid debate. The light rules & players safety have been the same for sometime it probably isn't right & I for one would be happy to see it changed. However the title of this piece is saying that the decision has damaged Aus chances of regaining the urn which is absolute rubbish

  • DaveyTh on August 5, 2013, 6:48 GMT

    Modernise the game, eh? Great idea. They could come up with some sort of contraption to tell if the umpires made the right decisions. Use TV cameras and stuff to track where the ball would have gone if it didn't hit a pad. I dunno, maybe something to tell if the ball caught an edge or not. Then NOBODY would complain...

  • kingkarthik on August 5, 2013, 5:54 GMT

    Wonder what the tunes would have been if a bouncer had pinned MC on the helmet and he was out cold for a while. Or maybe if a ball had wrapped Harris on the glove/ arm and broken a bone.... Hmmm, yes, those could have happended when the light was normal and good to play. But with it getting gloomy, and the umpires fiddling with the light meters, if they had not taken them off and the incident had happened, what would have happened? Sure MC would be saying that endangering the player safety was disgusting and that cricket was not more important than a player's career/ life. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. Catach 22.

  • Samdanh on August 5, 2013, 5:22 GMT

    People were saying Aus was dreaming, will need miracles, but now England seems to be needing miracle to save this Test and retain the urn.

  • Rocky_Team on August 5, 2013, 5:16 GMT

    To SirViv1973: The question is not whether 25 minutes of play left or 5 minutes of play or 5 hours of play; the rules and guideline to be followed by umpires should not be ambiguous. If batsman has no problem in playing fast bowlers, umpires or fielders should nit have a problem. If Red ball in a test match is a concern, why would ICC allow lights in a test match? Why would you play a test match in Dubai completely under lights after 6 pm with Red ball? Such arbitrary guideline and judge mental calls (or let me not say biased) will keep fans away for already dying test match format.

  • SaudSami on August 5, 2013, 4:20 GMT

    Anybody remember the Karachi Test? Pakistan was forced to continue even after Sunset! Seems like rules are being twisted to favour a certain side.

  • Kitschiguy on August 5, 2013, 4:13 GMT

    These arguments are pointless and brings to mind the stupid comment "show me the coffins". Imagine the wailing and gnashing of teeth when one does appear and the blame is on inadequate light.

    On the other hand; if they had stayed on and Australia finally declared (or were bowled out) and the light remained the same, England would have been batting to save the match against the new ball. Hardly the same thing.

  • on August 5, 2013, 4:07 GMT

    The law does say : "the safety of the players or the UMPIRES". Obviously the umpires felt in some way that if THEY can't see ball then it is irrelevant whether or not the batsmen or fielding side can see the ball or not. I didn't see the final moments when they came off but the umpires were probably following protocol. A couple of years ago they used to have light meters. I'm thinking that they probably go off at a particular reading or worse. Do umpires have to bend the rules because its "Eng vs. Aus". If this were a "Zim vs. Bang." test then it would have been a non incident. Aus probably has enough runs anyway and should declare overnight but they'll probably bat about an hour into day 5.

  • USIndianFan on August 5, 2013, 3:28 GMT

    Hmmm. And why again do T20's prosper?

  • on August 5, 2013, 3:25 GMT

    the problem is if the shoe was on the other foot and australia were batting to save the test they would have been the first ones off! No one wins in these situations but the fans are the losers as is test cricket!

  • dunger.bob on August 5, 2013, 3:00 GMT

    I agree with @SirViv1973 about the impact on this game. No big deal really. They'd already had the lights on for some time, so I don't know what more they could have done. However, thinking about the bigger picture, I reckon the author has a point. A damned good one actually.

    In some countries cricket might be able to afford to keep it's audience waiting around for something to happen, but not in mine. I read the other day there are, at the very minimum, 200 different sports being actively played here. .. proper sports with umbrella organisations and competitions. .. cricket is just another face in the crowd here and can't afford to alienate what followers it has.

    One of our biggest sports, AFL, is enormously successful but not by accident. .. Every administrative decision they make is guided by two rock solid principles. The safety of the players and the appeal of the game to the fans. .. simple as that. .. Cricket might be ignoring the second part of that too much for comfort.

  • landl47 on August 5, 2013, 2:54 GMT

    As it happens, the rain arriving half an hour later meant that the impact of coming off early wasn't all that great. However, the rain arriving didn't make the earlier decision by the umpires right.

    Old Trafford has lights and they were on. The only reason they wouldn't make much difference is if it wasn't very dark to start with.

    Umpires, administrators and players have to realize that the only reason we have professional cricket is that people are paying good money to watch it. It's all too often the case that the spectators are disregarded or treated as an inconvenience. These days, when all test grounds, at least in England, have lights, play should NEVER be suspended for bad light.

  • on August 5, 2013, 2:38 GMT

    What would have happened if Clarke got out the next ball? He would have probably told "Umpires should have call off the game as the conditions was non playable". Ground, weather and light is a tricky issue because teams wants to use it to their benefit.

  • 5wombats on August 5, 2013, 2:17 GMT

    You can tell Brydon is an Aussie just by the whining tone of this piece. Give it up mate - it gets cloudy, then it rains. Them's the rules. Mind you - there is a point here; either it's fit for play, or it isn't. It's no good the Umpires asking the fielding captain if he would be kind enough to bowl spin from both ends. That's not good enough. It's either fit for play, or it isn't fit for play. No half measures which allow one side to cry foul. That's not cricket. @SirViv1973 - I agree with you; As it stands 3 or 4 overs could have been had before the inevitable rain fell. It will make no difference - the forecast for Monday is rubbish and the game will be washed out in any event. IMO it's amazing that this is the first time that's been lost to weather this series. Just shows what a dry summer England has had. Australia would not have won even with 5 full days play. Proof? England easily batted out Day 5 at Nagpur in 2012 on a much worse pitch against a full hand of Indian spinners...

  • on August 5, 2013, 2:12 GMT

    The point of fact is that everything in this sport is suspect today. But true, player injury is a valid question, just as the good old honest umiring is also a question. As to player intention: One is reminded that once at crucial match situation a batter suddenly realized he had'nt been to the wash room; as the umpire relectantly submitted to this odd situation, it was not for atleast a while he returned to the crease leaving the opposition screaming.

  • runout49 on August 5, 2013, 1:45 GMT

    "When we start losing it completely from square leg" (umpire Hill). At last I understand what the square leg umpire does these days. Previously they adjudicated on run outs and stumpings but now of course they immediately go to the third umpire for those decisions. So it seems now they are there to see if they can see the ball.

  • Barnesy4444 on August 5, 2013, 1:24 GMT

    Of course they should have stayed on. When the number 10 has no problems facing their best fast bowler where is the danger? If England were not happy to bat in those conditions, fine. But Australia could have put on another 40 runs.

  • vatsap on August 5, 2013, 1:12 GMT

    First Umpiring decisions, then DRS and now bad light. Looks like the whole world is conspiring against the Aussies when they were just about to get their mojo back. Tut, tut. It was dark and the umpires made the right call. Face it.

  • on August 5, 2013, 0:48 GMT

    A lot of hand wringing and whining about nothing. The umpires have a job to do and they did it - bad luck if the Aussies don't like it. The umpires job is to enforce the rules and not be a slave to "entertainment" or to the "crowd who've paid big bucks to see the match" - this is cricket for pete's sake and not WWF wrestling. If you want entertainment, put Navjot Sidhu or a rep. from the TV channel station broadcasting the match as the umpire and let them take decisions based on what is more "entertaining". As for the light, the umpires have a light meter and it gave a reading that showed the light as less than optimum. Unless the light meter technology also needs a DRS associated with it, let's accept the decision of the umpires in this case and move on.

  • GeorgeWBush on August 5, 2013, 0:38 GMT

    If the flood lights are not good enough to provide sufficient light for play to continue at all times then they need to be upgraded. Surely the technology exists to do this and if there are issues about local people not wanting ugly floodlighting towers in their neighbourhood then can't temporary flood lights be erected for the week of a test match, ODI or T20 match. Seems like a simply problem demanding a simple solution.

  • on August 5, 2013, 0:29 GMT

    the batsmen r the 1's in the most danger when the light isnt @ its best so the way it used 2 b with the umpires offering the light 2 the batsmen worked perfectly fine in my book! IF AINT BROKE , Y FIX IT ? Did some poor fielder or bowler or god forbid an umpire get injured in dark conditions when the light was offered 2 the batsmen & they refused. if batsmen got injured after they were offered the light then they wood have no1 2 blame but themselves now wood they?

  • disco_bob on August 5, 2013, 0:25 GMT

    @SirViv1973, the point remains that it was not dangerous for the players and the umpires should have let Clarke decide.

  • maccca32 on August 5, 2013, 0:24 GMT

    So it was a OK because only 35 minutes were lost but would be a terrible decision if 95 minutes were lost?

    SirViv1973 given your view I think you would make a good umpire. Very short sighted.

  • popcorn on August 4, 2013, 23:59 GMT

    As expected, the Umpires and ICC goofed up.And who is to punish them?

  • Mel-waas on August 4, 2013, 23:52 GMT

    Back in 2001 England was allowed to play in not poor light but in Darkness as they were nearing surprise Victory over Pakistan. This was another poor decision against Australia

  • Moutarde on August 4, 2013, 23:46 GMT

    Is there anything the Aussies aren't going to moan about during this series?

  • swalter66 on August 4, 2013, 23:22 GMT

    As far as I'm concerned the vagaries of human error are just part of test cricket. Any game played over 5 days and with such a loose time framework for innings to begin and end is bound to encounter unanticipated variables, and people have been complaining about refereeing/umpiring since sport was invented. Could it be that the author is a touch biased because of his nationality? If England had been batting, I wonder if he would have gone so far as to say that very future of test cricket was in the balance? Whose whinging now? You can blame umpiring decisions all you like, but if Australia are in the position they are now, they are 99% to blame for that. Oh yes, and let's not forget that England have had the odd good day here and there.

  • on August 4, 2013, 23:02 GMT

    The old system had it's problems, because sometimes batsmen would take the light offered in order to protect themselves from getting out. So there's no easy solution to this problem.

  • legend_963 on August 4, 2013, 22:47 GMT

    One over against can make a very big difference in a test match especially during closing time

  • whatawicket on August 4, 2013, 22:41 GMT

    why when something like this happening teams as well as pundits an supporters can be so outraged. its in the rules and has been happening in England anyway since cricket was 1st played. sometimes bad light comes as your saviour and sometimes not

  • Blokker on August 4, 2013, 22:27 GMT

    As usual it is the spectators who suffer. Cricket's arcane and archaic rulings have a certain idiotic quaintness about them, but it doesn't help the game.

  • on August 4, 2013, 22:27 GMT

    I think everyone has missed a great point.

    "When we start losing it completely from square leg, we give the skipper an option, as we did out here, to bowl spin and he didn't want to do that,"

    If the umpires cant see the ball from square leg, then how can they be asked to umpire the game? As sad as it might be, the right decision was made. Can you imagine with all the stink already about Umpires and bad decisions, if another one occurred last night in those conditions? Again, i think they made the right decision....if they couldnt see it.

  • cricketsage on August 4, 2013, 22:18 GMT

    ICC continues to make big blunders in its changes to cricketing rules. Safety concern is always for the batsmen but if they are happy to play i.e. refusing the traditional offer of bad light, why do the umpires have to take it upon themselves to call off play ? The decision looks even more ridiculous as the lights were on. They do take a bit of adjusting but everyone knows that.

    This series has already shown some real howlers by the umpires starting from upholding a referred wrong decision by the umpires. Hello..isn't that DRS was supposed to eliminate ?

  • Ben2014 on August 4, 2013, 22:13 GMT

    All said and done, this "safety" issue means there can never be Day and Night test cricket. If ICC tries to promote day and night cricket, they have to admit that this incident is ICC's mistake. If they argue that they are right, then close down the idea about day and night test cricket.

  • Jordanious77 on August 4, 2013, 21:31 GMT

    Stop whinging.. The umpires made a decision, Australia needed to be the bigger team and accept it. Not complain about it like they did with the DRS.

    If australia were truly confident in their team they would have declared earlier already with the faith in their bowlers to remove england for under 250.

    This article also neglects the fact that it rained 30 minutes later, a clear indication of clouds and shade which most likely made it harder to see. It is without a doubt impossible to see how dark or light it is on tv (anyone who has used a high quality camera would know this) And of course the Australian Batsman would declare how easy it is to bat, they would have batted on if they couldnt see anything at all.. THEY WANTED TO WIN.

    All this article really says to me is whinging makes everything better. This comment probably won't get published because neglecting the truth is easier than admitting that your team just isnt very good. But Maybe if Aus werent 2-0 down this wouldnt matter

  • on August 4, 2013, 21:26 GMT

    Get real, Bryan- Australia chances at retaking the urn after losing the first two matches have always been infinitesimal. They don't exactly have even a shadow of Bradman in their lineup. Sure it was frustrating, but it should not be blown out of proportion. The umpires made their decision. The supposed importance of those 30 minutes that "could" make a difference in what "might" be a close match is not something the umpires are supposed to take into account. All that matters is whether they think the light is safe for play at any given time.

  • on August 4, 2013, 21:09 GMT

    I think they should have continued to play as long as Aus wanted to bat it wasn't dark enough to be dangerous and Aus would have been the ones to lose out if they had missed a straight one.

    If you are talking about light hours then why start at 11? why not start at 9? Its not prime time viewing but prime time travel cost but with lengthening the days play how does a supporter organise transport why play could finish at 9 or 6?

    I understand Day-Night tests but not in England where they grounds are full for the big 4 and mostly full for the lower ranked teams

  • SirViv1973 on August 4, 2013, 21:08 GMT

    I don't see what all the fuss is about here. Aus were going to bat on for at least another 3 or 4 overs, so they were going to be out there for a min of another 15 mins. The time between coming off for bad light & the rain starting was half an hour, so if you add the 10 mins inns break there would have been a min of 25 mins before Eng would have come out to bat. So had the umpires not come off for the light, the best case scenario for Aus would have been that Lyon would have bowled one over with the new ball, before play was abandoned for the day due to rain. Therefore I cannot see why the OP is saying this may have been a crucial half an hour in the context of the match lost. An intriguing finish to this match looks to have been lost due to the rain (especially as we are due plenty more tomorrow) not the umpires call to bring the players off at 16.25 this afternoon!

  • SirViv1973 on August 4, 2013, 21:08 GMT

    I don't see what all the fuss is about here. Aus were going to bat on for at least another 3 or 4 overs, so they were going to be out there for a min of another 15 mins. The time between coming off for bad light & the rain starting was half an hour, so if you add the 10 mins inns break there would have been a min of 25 mins before Eng would have come out to bat. So had the umpires not come off for the light, the best case scenario for Aus would have been that Lyon would have bowled one over with the new ball, before play was abandoned for the day due to rain. Therefore I cannot see why the OP is saying this may have been a crucial half an hour in the context of the match lost. An intriguing finish to this match looks to have been lost due to the rain (especially as we are due plenty more tomorrow) not the umpires call to bring the players off at 16.25 this afternoon!

  • on August 4, 2013, 21:09 GMT

    I think they should have continued to play as long as Aus wanted to bat it wasn't dark enough to be dangerous and Aus would have been the ones to lose out if they had missed a straight one.

    If you are talking about light hours then why start at 11? why not start at 9? Its not prime time viewing but prime time travel cost but with lengthening the days play how does a supporter organise transport why play could finish at 9 or 6?

    I understand Day-Night tests but not in England where they grounds are full for the big 4 and mostly full for the lower ranked teams

  • on August 4, 2013, 21:26 GMT

    Get real, Bryan- Australia chances at retaking the urn after losing the first two matches have always been infinitesimal. They don't exactly have even a shadow of Bradman in their lineup. Sure it was frustrating, but it should not be blown out of proportion. The umpires made their decision. The supposed importance of those 30 minutes that "could" make a difference in what "might" be a close match is not something the umpires are supposed to take into account. All that matters is whether they think the light is safe for play at any given time.

  • Jordanious77 on August 4, 2013, 21:31 GMT

    Stop whinging.. The umpires made a decision, Australia needed to be the bigger team and accept it. Not complain about it like they did with the DRS.

    If australia were truly confident in their team they would have declared earlier already with the faith in their bowlers to remove england for under 250.

    This article also neglects the fact that it rained 30 minutes later, a clear indication of clouds and shade which most likely made it harder to see. It is without a doubt impossible to see how dark or light it is on tv (anyone who has used a high quality camera would know this) And of course the Australian Batsman would declare how easy it is to bat, they would have batted on if they couldnt see anything at all.. THEY WANTED TO WIN.

    All this article really says to me is whinging makes everything better. This comment probably won't get published because neglecting the truth is easier than admitting that your team just isnt very good. But Maybe if Aus werent 2-0 down this wouldnt matter

  • Ben2014 on August 4, 2013, 22:13 GMT

    All said and done, this "safety" issue means there can never be Day and Night test cricket. If ICC tries to promote day and night cricket, they have to admit that this incident is ICC's mistake. If they argue that they are right, then close down the idea about day and night test cricket.

  • cricketsage on August 4, 2013, 22:18 GMT

    ICC continues to make big blunders in its changes to cricketing rules. Safety concern is always for the batsmen but if they are happy to play i.e. refusing the traditional offer of bad light, why do the umpires have to take it upon themselves to call off play ? The decision looks even more ridiculous as the lights were on. They do take a bit of adjusting but everyone knows that.

    This series has already shown some real howlers by the umpires starting from upholding a referred wrong decision by the umpires. Hello..isn't that DRS was supposed to eliminate ?

  • on August 4, 2013, 22:27 GMT

    I think everyone has missed a great point.

    "When we start losing it completely from square leg, we give the skipper an option, as we did out here, to bowl spin and he didn't want to do that,"

    If the umpires cant see the ball from square leg, then how can they be asked to umpire the game? As sad as it might be, the right decision was made. Can you imagine with all the stink already about Umpires and bad decisions, if another one occurred last night in those conditions? Again, i think they made the right decision....if they couldnt see it.

  • Blokker on August 4, 2013, 22:27 GMT

    As usual it is the spectators who suffer. Cricket's arcane and archaic rulings have a certain idiotic quaintness about them, but it doesn't help the game.

  • whatawicket on August 4, 2013, 22:41 GMT

    why when something like this happening teams as well as pundits an supporters can be so outraged. its in the rules and has been happening in England anyway since cricket was 1st played. sometimes bad light comes as your saviour and sometimes not

  • legend_963 on August 4, 2013, 22:47 GMT

    One over against can make a very big difference in a test match especially during closing time