The strange case of the unresumed innings

Here at Old Trafford, the strange case of Pedro Collins's chin, Brian Lara's toilet break and the Bearded Wonder rumbles on. Administrators, statisticians and commentators have all tried to crack it; none of them seem to agree on a solution. At stake is the scorecard. And for the more crusty sort of cricket follower the scorecard is a sacred artefact, a kind of Dead Sea Scroll with numbers.

The mystery is one that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - a first-class cricketer himself (only victim as bowler: WG Grace) - would doubtless have referred to as a three-pipe problem. Yesterday, shortly before noon, poor old Collins was hit on the chin by a nasty bouncer from Andrew Flintoff. He retired hurt immediately. Later, in the last over before lunch, West Indies' ninth wicket fell. Lunch was taken, and the stitched-up Collins was expected to resume batting after the break. So the umpires arrived out on the ground, along with England's fielders. But the West Indian batsmen never appeared.

Lara later explained that he had gone to the toilet after the break, expecting to see Collins out there batting when he got back. Instead, to his surprise, he found Collins still in the pavilion, claiming his head was too sore to allow him to bat. With England standing expectantly in the middle, and Collins unfit, Lara declared.

Or did he? Ranjan Madugalle, the match referee, said yes: the innings was declared closed at the pre-lunch score of 395 for 9. But the ranged intelligence of the Association of Cricket Statisticians & Historians - whose most famous member is Test Match Special's Bill Frindall, the "Bearded Wonder" - disagreed.

Their reasonable contention is that Collins never resumed his innings. Therefore, they say, he was retired hurt rather than not out. So West Indies' innings should be recorded as 395 all out, not 395 for 9 declared.

The question seems to hang on whether Collins ever actually "resumed his innings". Which begs the question: at what point is an innings actually resumed? When Collins declares his intention to bat? When he faces a ball? When he gets down the pavilion steps? If so, which step? When he crosses the boundary rope (this is the ACS view)? It's one for the editor of Wisden to untangle - with or without a pipe or three.

Paul Coupar is assistant editor of Wisden Cricketers' Almanack.