The TV umpire’s decision to disallow a slip catch by Simon Harmer and the onfield umpires’ handling of bad light were the main talking points after an abbreviated opening day of the third Test between Australia and South Africa at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Wednesday.
Only 47 overs were bowled on the first day, Australia reaching 147/2. The second of those wickets was the dismissal of Marnus Labuschagne for 79, edging a phenomenal delivery with pace, bounce and nip away from Anrich Nortje that defied the sluggishness of the pitch.
Unfortunately for the South African-born batsman, umpires Chris Gaffaney and Paul Reiffel then immediately took the players off the field for bad light, never to return.
Read more: A half-day of toil for the Proteas as Australia reach 147/2
Labuschagne had enjoyed a huge slice of luck though when he was on 70 and he edged left-armer Marco Jansen low to first slip, where Harmer seemed to have scooped up a fine catch.
Neither Labuschagne nor the umpires were 100% sure though, with third umpire Richard Kettleborough being called into play, the soft signal being out. Having watched numerous replays, the Englishman felt the ball had touched the ground, but a conclusive replay, zoomed in from the front, was strangely absent.
Labuschagne survived, and five minutes later, the crucial replay suddenly emerged and showed that Harmer did get his fingers under the ball. The incident raised suspicions about the host broadcaster interfering in the officiating of the game, but apparently the third umpire only had access to the world feed camera shots and the front-on slow-mo replay was exclusively a Channel 7 shot.
Nortje was adamant that Harmer had caught the catch.
“We all thought it was out, Simon was convinced that it had gone straight into his hands. The front angle replay I think showed that he had his fingers underneath the ball. So we were unfortunate not to get that one,” Nortje said.
“You’ve just got to try and focus again because feeling hard done by can quickly get out of hand. I just told Marco to try and refocus and stick to the basics. He bowled really well at that stage and we were able to feed off that energy.”
The in-form fast bowler had more sympathy for the umpires’ decision to stop play for bad light at 2.17pm local time, to again rule it was too dark just as the players were about to go back on to the field at 3.45pm, and then to stop play for the final time at 5.05pm.
“It’s tough and it was really dark at one stage,” Nortje said. “It’s not just about the batsmen, fielders start to not be able to pick up the ball in certain areas and you don’t want to drop a catch then.
“They were probably the right decisions, it’s about playing fair. With two guys bowling quickly and with the ball a bit harder, it can get unsafe. There was one bouncer from KG Rabada that was not picked up so well.”
Nortje was also the producer of the first wicket when he had David Warner caught by Jansen high at first slip off an attempted slash outside off stump.
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