Umpiring in the World Cup has run into fresh controversy with Ireland captain William Porterfield strongly criticising Asoka de Silva's decision to give Gary Wilson out lbw despite replays showing the batsman had offered a shot to a delivery that replays clearly indicated had hit him outside the line. Porterfield's comments - unusually sharp for a team captain - came after a match which, he said, turned on that decision.
"I am still trying to understand it myself. The feedback we have got so far is that the ball hit him outside the line and the umpire judged him [to be] not playing a shot. I don't know how many people agree with that," Porterfield said after Ireland's 44-run defeat against West Indies.
The ball in question, delivered by West Indies captain Darren Sammy, pitched outside the off stump and cut in to hit the outside of Wilson's front pad. Wilson was trying to nudge it but failed but the Sri Lankan official thought he was offering no shot and raised his finger instantly. A surprised Wilson asked for a review. Third umpire Bruce Oxenford told de Silva that the ball had hit outside off and would, according to HawkEye, go on to hit the outside of the off stump. Replays on the big screen made that clear as also the fact that Wilson was actually trying to play the shot. Disappointed and confused, Wilson asked de Silva to refer the review this time. It was an extraordinary moment, which bordered on the comical, as de Silva went back to Oxenford once again. In the end, de Silva stuck to his stand and Wilson charged out, furiously shaking his head.
"If you see the replay on the big screen he could have still been able to reverse his decision from there. It was clearly seen he was playing the shot. (And) even though he [de Silva] judged that (wrongly) in the first place he saw the replays on the big screen," Porterfield said. He said that he did not have much time to discuss the issue with Wilson, who was not "in a great state of mind" when he came off the ground. "The word we are getting at the minute is the umpire went back upstairs to check if he hit the ball before the impact on the pad and if it was pad first, or bat first. Surely if you are asking if it was pad first or bat first, you know he is playing a shot. In my opinion they got it wrong."
Asked if the DRS was proving to be a nuisance rather than a help, Porterfield said he would not blame the reviews per se. "I would like to say it (DRS) was working but if you get a decision like that then I don't know. When you have all the technology, it is supposed to eradicate the mistakes and for me that did not happen this time."
Interestingly, Porterfield - speaking at the post-match press conference - had to stop briefly as Phil Simmons, the Ireland coach, walked in to have a few private words with a team official, who in turn relayed the message to Porterfield. The exchange, the media was told, was "off the record".
Porterfield admitted that Wilson's wicket was the turning point in Ireland's chase. Wilson had showed a wise head in the company of Ed Joyce, sharing a vital 91-run partnership for the fourth wicket. After Joyce departed Wilson took the onus on him and was playing fluently. Ireland needed 77 from 51 balls and the batting Powerplay was yet to be taken when Wilson was ruled out. "It was the pivotal moment in the game. It was not one of the things that cost us the game as there were other things we did," Porterfield said. "But it was a pretty crucial decision. He was going well. If we had taken the Powerplay we never know especially with Cusy [Alex Cusack] and John boy [Mooney] to come there."
One man who was more than happy to see the back of Wilson was Sammy. "I was happy that we got him out. That was the main focus for us, he back in the pavilion," he said.
But at the time of the incident, Sammy was intensely chatting to Wilson after de Silva's original decision. Asked if he saw Wilson's point, Sammy said personally he would not have argued with the umpire. "Umpires have been in charge ever since I started playing cricket. He did what he had to do," Sammy said. So what was he was making Wilson aware of? "I personally tried to tell him you know what, at the end of the day, the umpire said you are out so don't hang around because you don't really make an issue and get fined. We learned as a team that if the umpire says you are out, unless he tells you to hold on, you walk. You can always give your feedback in the captain's report."
Incidentally, Ireland were fined. But for another crime. Apparently they had bowled an over short and as a consequence Porterfield was penalised 20% of his match fee while the rest of the team had to take a 10% cut.