England v Australia, 5th Investec Test, The Oval, 5th day August 25, 2013

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on August 28, 2013, 8:04 GMT

    When the umpires have been given the authority to call play off. It doesnt matter if its a capacity crowd, will the crowd help the player recover from the injury if one does get injured. The umpires have been given this right by the ICC - they are to be targeted with this aggression. Aleem Dar is the best umpire in the world show some respect English fans.

  • H on August 27, 2013, 13:17 GMT

    @MrCricketFan1981 on (August 26, 2013, 13:20 GMT)

    "Michael Clarke took the risk and initiative to give a 5/over RR to get a victory. Even then, the English didn't want to risk anything and was going at 5/over, the required rate."

    Wrong on both counts. Australia went at a shade under 5 an over (4.82 to be exact) while England went at a shade over (5.15). Australia scored 111-6 at that run-rate, England scored 206-5. So we scored more runs and lost less wickets. It's far easier to score at 5 an over for 23 overs than 40 overs. If they didn't want to risk it, Cook would've gone at 3 an over.

    I'm not saying Clarke didn't take risks, but to pretend England didn't is just not true. Clarke had everything to gain (Australia haven't completed an Ashes series without a single win since the 70s) and a lot less to lose. England won the series, and have now gone unbeaten against Australia in 7 Tests.

    England didn't deserve to win, though, and Giles Clarke is wrong to moan about the light.

  • Jay on August 27, 2013, 4:23 GMT

    I don't think English fans have the right to complain especially when their team holds the record for bowling close to 11 overs in an hour during one of the tests this series. That included Swann in one of his spells. Had Australia been chasing, England would have done exactly the same thing. So let's not call each other names here and just get on with better things in life. Besides, I strongly oppose the players having any say in staying or walking away. These things are better left with the umpires and officials. I SALUTE Aleem Dar and Dharmasena for being consistent with their approach. Too bad England, a victory for you was not meant to be. Still you won 3-0 and that's as good as it gets.

  • John on August 27, 2013, 1:47 GMT

    Giles Clarke is kidding. He did not protest the lack of spectator satisfaction when England bowled 11 overs in an hour (including some spin) or batted as they did or deliberately prepared flat pitches. He says it should be changed but offers no solution (except he implies to stay on despite the rules if it is exciting). You can't take a team off when they are doing well then demand they stay on in same or worse conditions later. More importantly - it was darker than Old Trafford and probably darker than when they went off on Day 2 but the umpires did not even have the light meters out there!! Were they hoping to let it slide by and not make the call. Clarke (Michael, not Giles!) was then put in the position of villain by having to ask about it, including where the meters were. He was badly let down by the officials here. The truth of the numbers needs to come out. I suspect the first reading should have been instigated by the umpires some 10-15 minutes before Clarke forced their hand.

  • Colin on August 26, 2013, 18:29 GMT

    Why not just improve the lights? If we can play day/night matches then evening poor light should not be a problem. However, if it is, just ramp up e power of the lights. Good that Clarke declared, a worthy decision, however, it was unworthy that light ruled the day. ICC, sort it out!!

  • Dummy4 on August 26, 2013, 17:34 GMT

    So, Giles Clarke, what should they do? Play in the dark? The Australian Captain made a daring declaration that provided massive entertainment for everyone after Cook stifled the match... England had already won the Ashes... and you're still not satisfied? Pathetic.

  • Anselm on August 26, 2013, 14:03 GMT

    There are more issues with light and rain in England than in any other country so not sure what Giles is on about. Like Pakistan playing in the UAE, Giles may want to consider moving some tests to Spain so that England can get the results they want when they want it.

  • Earl on August 26, 2013, 13:32 GMT

    If all the administration and actions are left to the ECB and their players then test cricket will soon die.They run to the umpires room complaining if a decision is made against them.they want to change the rules about light.We the spectators should have a say.Bring back the old no ball rule,bowl as many bouncers per over and penalize for slow over rate and slow batting.

  • Sasidharan on August 26, 2013, 13:20 GMT

    Mr. Clarke, Giles ofcourse, Test cricket is a spectator sport not just on the fifth day but also on the previous 4 days of the game. Why did England walk off on the second day, it wasn't as if they were going to loose the series if they lost this match. Lets just look at the fifth day, Michael Clarke took the risk and initiative to give a 5/over RR to get a victory. Even then, the English didn't want to risk anything and was going at 5/over, the required rate. If the English really wanted to win, they should have batted better then required run rate and shouldn't have needed the last 4 overs. There was no risk and initiative taken from the English and they certainly didn't deserve to win this match atleast. This is a neutral view from an Indian guy.

  • Merwe on August 26, 2013, 11:50 GMT

    @ Insult_2_Injury on (August 26, 2013, 5:05 GMT):

    Just imagine the howls of protest if we follow your suggestion and appoint non neutral umpires and two Aussie umps made the same decision that the two neutrals made last night. Another good reason for sticking to non aligned umpires.

    Then just a general comment: a drawn match is one of the idiosyncrasies that makes the game so fascinating. If you want a result, go watch limited overs cricket.

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