It would have taken something pretty special to steal the limelight from Steve Smith’s comeback twin hundreds, but that doesn't mean the umpires didn't still make a pretty good go at it.
Ultimately it did not quite overshadow Australia’s first win at Edgbaston since 2001, but after a torrid five days in the field, it seems unlikely that this will be a game that Joel Wilson and Aleem Dar will look back upon with much fondness.
In total 20 reviews were called for over the course of the game, with 10 of those decisions being overturned, eight of those made by Wilson, two by Dar – statistics which while damning in their own right do not even take into account the number of incorrect decisions made that for one reason or another were not reviewed.
In short, it was a horror show of a Test for the umpires, the tone set in a dramatic start that saw David Warner not given out caught behind first ball when he had hit it and then given out LBW not long after when Hawkeye showed the ball sliding down the leg side.
Day One saw a grand total of eight major umpiring errors made, trust in the men in the middle almost completely eroded to the point that by the end of the Test reviewing whatever decision an umpire had made seemed the automatic response for both sides.
In a bleak match for England fans, Joe Root is unlikely to treasure the new Test record he takes away from Edgbaston, becoming the first man to be given out and have the decision overturned four times in a Test – just one away from a five-fer and the chance to raise a celebratory DRS signal to all corners of the ground.
There is an old sporting cliche that umpires or referees are doing a good job if the fans don’t notice they’re there – on Day Five of this Test Joel Wilson was the number one trending topic on Twitter in the United Kingdom. Mission not exactly accomplished.
After a World Cup that was littered with some fairly poor umpiring, this has not been a vintage summer for the pursuit, and with seven of the ICC’s 12 elite umpires coming from England and Australia, therefore ruling them out of officiating in this series, there is little chance of escaping the glare of the world’s attention for either men who oversaw this Test – Dar is one of the two in the next Test and Wilson returns again for the third Test at Leeds.
With the benefit of replays and technology it is of course easy these days to be hypercritical of umpires who inevitably will make the occasional understandable mistake, that however would be an inaccurate response to the umpiring on display at Edgbaston where time and time again basic errors were made and some incredibly poor decisions given – simply not good enough from men who are meant to be some of the sport’s best.
What then can be done about the situation? Ricky Ponting has called for an end to always having neutral umpires in Tests, arguing he “would like to think the game has come far enough now for the game to not have neutral umpires” and that as a result of it the best umpires often miss out on the best series.
However, there were good reasons for the introduction of neutral umpires and essentially it seems a short term fix to a problem borne out of the fact that currently seven of the elite umpires are from England and Australia. Instead, it would perhaps be prudent to question why there are not more elite umpires from a wider range of countries.
Currently, there is no Indian umpire among the ICC’s panel of 12 elite, a fairly unacceptable situation given the enormous love for the game the country possesses, but more importantly the financial capabilities of the BCCI.
Put simply England and Australia almost undoubtedly have such a high proportion of the elite umpires because their boards have invested in producing them, and it is not beyond the capabilities of India to do the same. And for those international boards who do lack the funds to do so it should surely be in the remit of the ICC to provide them.
For now though the umpires will have to just try and put this Test behind them, do whatever their equivalent of getting back to their best in the nets is and hopefully make a sparkling return to form in the rest of the series – England’s supporters will be hoping their team can do much the same.