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Jarrod Kimber

The curious case of the moving dirt

Doug Bracewell hits a good length, Hashim Amla is a bit late on the drive, Rob Nicol desperately lunges left, Martin Guptill claims the catch, Amla doesn’t move and the umpires refer the catch.

Jarrod Kimber
Jarrod Kimber
25-Feb-2013
Doug Bracewell had Hashim Amla caught at slip, New Zealand v South Africa, 1st Test, Dunedin, 3rd day, March 9, 2012

The main action happened behind the stumps  •  Getty Images

Doug Bracewell hits a good length, Hashim Amla is a bit late on the drive, Rob Nicol desperately lunges left, Martin Guptill claims the catch, Amla doesn’t move and the umpires refer the catch.
Somehow Bracewell manages to accidentally not overstep and we’re looking at the catch/incident. The first angle doesn’t quite show us anything. It cuts off brilliantly so that you can see there is a ball, there is a hand, there is another hand, and there is a random lot of dirt that blows through like it’s tumbleweed in some forgotten film.
The next angle teases you into believing that there is something you’ll be able to see, and then Nicol desperately dives in front of the ball. Of course, the angle is so far away and Guptill’s shadow so badly placed that we may have never known anyway.
There is another angle, which is pointless and too far away. It does give the commentators a chance to backtrack from earlier statements concerning Guptill being a rubbish slipper (even if he did almost get hit by a ball a few overs earlier). They don’t. Instead we focus on the dirt, on the moving dirt. Maybe it came from Nicol? Maybe it came from the ball? Maybe it came from the Cairns-Modi trial?
It’s quite possible it came from Guptill’s fingers, which means he definitely didn’t catch it, or he did catch it and he now has dirty fingernails as well. Either way, with far less video evidence than the Rodney King trial, Amla is out. We’ve seen many replays, zoomed in, gone super slow, been on multiple angles, and at the end of our little upstairs time we have a non-conclusive outcome that basically comes down to the umpire thinking that it was probably out.
The dirt was a new touch, but in every other way I think I’ve already seen this referral 100 times before. How many hours do we spend watching catches being referred only to end up just as confused as before and then thinking, “It’s probably out, but you can’t really tell?” Somewhere there is a bar where two fans vehemently arguing over this catch, both using that piece of dirt as proof in their argument. One claiming benefit of the doubt should go to the batsman. And the other claiming that cricketers know that’s just out. You can imagine the barman in the corner just slowly cleaning the glass while thinking both people are idiots. That dirt means different things to different people, and I think we should all count ourselves lucky that we got to see it so many times.

Jarrod Kimber is 50% of the Two Chucks, and the mind responsible for cricketwithballs.com