Monday, May 30, 2011

Should KP have been given out?

It was a sparkling weekend of sport. The headlines were made by Barcelona's victory over Manchester United in the Champions League Final at Wembley. One thinks of the great Real Madrid team or Ajax or AC Milan or even Brazil, but this Barcelona team must be the greatest football team in history. Iniesta, Xavi and above all Messi seemed to treat the ball as their personal possession and didn't allow the opposition to get near it. As a Man U supporter I have to concede that they were decidedly second best.

In golf we are beginning to see the post-Tiger generation emerging. By beating Lee Westwood at an extra hole at the PGA, Luke Donald has supplanted him as number one in the world.

World Tennis looks set in its ways with four top names, Nadal, Djokovic, Federer and Murray likely to contest the semi-finals of the French Open.

Saracens beat Leicester to win the Rugby Premiership, reversing last year's result.

Vettel won his fifth Grand Prix out of six at Monaco in a race interrupted by safety cars.

But it is the rather boring Test Match in Cardiff between Sri Lanka and England that I want to talk about. For those who find the LBW law boring, look away now.

Should Kevin Pietersen have been given out? The LBW law is a bit of a movable feast, but as currently written, to be given out leg before wicket, a batsman must prevent a ball from hitting his wicket with any part of his body except his bat, hand or forearm. In addition the ball must bounce or look as if it would bounce in line with the wicket or outside the off stump and it must hit the body part in line with the wicket unless the batsman was not playing a shot, in which case it may hit the body part outside the line of the off stump.

You may imagine that these things are quite difficult for the Umpire to work out, especially when the ball is traveling at 80+ mph. To aid the Umpire in certain matches, they have been given technical help in the form of 'Hawkeye' and 'Hotspot'. Hawkeye is a computer aided graphics package which can predict where the ball would have gone were it not interrupted in flight, and Hotspot uses infra-red to measure the heat generated when the ball hits the pad or other part or the bat. Because of the statistical uncertainty of Hawkeye, the Umpire still has the final decision. Each side has two failed appeals per innings when they can question the Umpire's decision. If Hawkeye shows the Umpire was clearly wrong then the decision is reversed, but if the technology shows uncertainty then the batsman is given the benefit of the doubt.

In the incident in Cardiff Pietersen was receiving a ball from a rather innocuous slow left-arm bowler. (This is not irrelevant. From being a batsman who just piled on the runs without effort, he has become vulnerable to not-very-good slow left-armers. He has been out 19 times to them in Test cricket.) Undoubtedly he should have played forward to this ball but he played back and only just managed to jam his bat down on the ball before it would have taken his middle stump. The bowler appealed, but Pietersen was given not-out. The Sri Lankans then appealed to the third Umpire to use the technology. Hotspot clearly showed that the ball flicked Pietersen's pad milliseconds before it hit his bat. The Umpire therefore reversed his decision and gave him out, LBW.

But I wonder if this is right. The point is that for a player to be out LBW, the batsman must interpose his leg (or other body part) so as to prevent the ball knocking over the wicket. But in no sense could the flick on the pad be said to have done this. It was the bat coming down that prevented the skittling of the wicket. In my view the Umpire's original decision should have stood.

Not that it matters in this match, which is heading for a rain-affected draw.

1 comment:

Peter Lewin said...

Well, that's cricket.