West Indies v England, 1st Test, Jamaica, 2nd day February 6, 2009

Prior backs role of on-field umpires


Andrew Flintoff refers his appeal for lbw against Devon Smith after it was was turned down © AFP
 

Matt Prior, the England wicketkeeper, has offered his support to the on-field umpires during the current trial of review technology as the players continue to come to grips with the new system. Tony Hill and Rudi Koertzen were at the centre of the action on the second day between England and West Indies at Sabina Park, with both sides gaining and losing from the third umpire.

This is the third series to be part of the trial, following the previous contests between India and Sri Lanka then New Zealand and West Indies. Devon Smith was given out lbw to Andrew Flintoff after Hill, the on-field official, had originally declined the appeal, while Ramnaresh Sarwan was reprieved after Hill had initially given a positive decision in Steve Harmison's favour.

"I think a lot of the players have some sympathy with the guys [umpires] because they are making tricky decisions," Prior said. "We've just had an afternoon of having to try and make decisions in a split second and it's not easy. Everyone makes mistakes, players will make more mistakes than umpires in a day's play. If an umpire makes a mistake it's not because they are trying to. If the decision is changed then so be it."

Five decisions were reviewed during the second day's play and all in the space of 12 overs. The most controversial of those was Sarwan's overturned lbw when on 5, with replays showing the ball would have clipped the top of the stumps.

"Harmison's one with the use of Hawk-Eye looks like it is hitting the top of the bails which is out," Prior said. "So from that point of view you can get a bit frustrated. But it's not easy. The third umpire is making a guess decision as much as anyone else. If you are trusting Hawk-Eye to track the ball three-quarters of the way or longer, then why not all the way. "

As a wicketkeeper, Prior will often be in the thick of the action when reviews are asked for, although he said that he can only be of so much use to Andrew Strauss when the ball is swinging "A lot of people would say that the keeper has the best view but that's not always the case," he said. "We had a couple where the ball was tailing into leg stump and you lose the line.

"From my own point of view it's very much an instinctive call. You see it and you either feel it's out or you don't. But when a decision like the Steve Harmison one is given not out you almost start second-guessing yourself a little because I thought that was pretty close."

Sarwan admitted he was grateful for his escape but said that West Indies remained unsure about the system following their first experience of it on the recent tour of New Zealand. "In our team not too many guys are keen on it. It kind of takes the umpires out of the game. Sometimes it goes your way, sometimes not, we have to realise that everyone is human and makes mistakes and that is something that you need to understand."

One of the issues that came to the fore was the time it takes to make the decisions, which was an original concern about the further introduction of technology. The system has already been tweaked by the ICC to reduce the number of reviews down to two per team, per innings, and the stoppages in play will need further monitoring.

"Do you sacrifice that to make sure you get the right decision?," Prior said. "There is a huge amount at stake at the minute and big decisions have to be made. Traditionalists will say it does take quite a bit of time out of the game, and why shouldn't the umpires have the right to make their decision as they always have done?"

Andrew McGlashan is a staff writer at Cricinfo

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