ECB chairman calls for light ruling change
Giles Clarke, the chairman of the ECB, has branded the end of the Investec Ashes series at The Oval "totally unsatisfactory" and called upon the ICC chief executive, David Richardson, to change the regulations regarding bad light at the earliest opportunity.
A full house crowd booed the umpires after they led the players from the pitch with England requiring 21 more runs from the final four overs of the match.
It was a disappointing end to a dramatic final day that had seen 447 runs scored, 17 wickets taken and Kevin Pietersen score the fastest half-century by an England player in Ashes history after a bold declaration from Australia and a sustained run-chase from England.
Set 227 to win in 44 overs, England appeared to be on the brink of the win that would have secured a record-breaking 4-0 victory - a score line they have never achieved in an Ashes series in England - before the umpires intervened.
It left Clarke fuming. While he understood that the umpires had little choice but to end play - the ICC playing regulations state that they are obliged to take the players from the field once the light has dropped to the level it had been when deemed unfit for play earlier in the match - he felt there should be some flexibility to respect the requirements of a spectator sport.
"It's totally unsatisfactory the way the game ended," Clarke said. "The rules are clearly unacceptable and I expect David Richardson to change it at the next ICC chief executives' meeting."
Tempers also become frayed on the pitch. With Australia sensing that the game was slipping away from them and their fielders struggling to pick-up the ball, captain Michael Clarke brought his concerns to the attention of the umpires.
When the umpires attempted to take light meter readings out of sight of Clarke, Aleem Dar seemed to gently push the Australian captain away. It left Clarke unimpressed.
"I remember Aleem touching me and I asked him politely to not touch me because if I touched him I'd be suspended for three games," Michael Clarke said. "That's all I can really remember. I just know a player is not allowed to touch an umpire. But for me personally, I have absolutely no issue with it at all."
The umpires took the players off the pitch on the second day of the game due to bad light. At the time they took a reading on their light meters which, in accordance with ICC regulations, set a precedent for the rest of the game. Whether the light on either day could be considered to have suggested an "obvious and foreseeable risk to the safety of any player or umpire, so that it would be unreasonable or dangerous for play to take place", as the regulations currently state, is debatable.
Michael Clarke, at least, felt the light was considerably worse by the end of day five than it had been at the end of day two. He also felt it was worse than when the umpires had led the players from the pitch in Manchester when Australia were in the dominant position.
"There was no comparison," Clarke said. "I don't think I'm going to get into the numbers but I remember seeing the reading when I got told we had to go off in Manchester and I stood in the middle of the wicket today and there was a big difference. But for us, we just have to go on the umpire's call. If they think it's safe to keep playing then we keep playing.
"I just asked the question: why we haven't got the meter out here? It took a few overs to get it out. Just going on what's happened in the past through this Test series, you know around that time is generally when it's getting close to when the umpires have consistently taken us off the field."
Alastair Cook, the England captain, also expressed his empathy with the umpires. While he was naturally disappointed to be denied a memorable win, he admitted it has become "pretty dark". He also credited Australia for an enterprising declaration that had set-up a highly entertaining final day of the series.
"It would have been nice to finish the game off," Cook said. "But rules are there for a reason. It was pretty dark and the umpires have strict guidelines. If the boot had been on the other foot, we would have asked the same questions as the Australians.
"Of course we understand the frustration. It's a shame for an amazing crowd. But you can also see the other side of it. We understand the rules and regulations. The umpires have to take emotion out of the game and do their job. They have to be consistently fair to both sides.
"It is disappointing to be sitting here when we felt we could have scored those runs in the final four overs, but I understand the umpires' decision."
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo