At the post match press conferences at a number of rugby matches where John Mitchell was coach, a commonly heard phrase was “some of the refereeing was questionable.” His son Daryl has reason to say the same thing after Friday's match.
On the final ball of the Powerplay, Krunal Pandya, bowling to Mitchell, bowled one that had the seam almost perfectly square to the pitch, meaning that it drifted in, but didn’t turn much. Mitchell played outside the line to account for the turn. The ball did not turn. It hit the pad, the Indians appealed, and umpire Chris Brown put his finger up.
Nothing too unusual so far.
The first strange thing that happened was Mitchell walked down and asked Kane Williamson how to review it. We’re not used to a player making it to international cricket without knowing how to use the DRS system.
Then the decision came. That was another strange thing. There was a clear mark on the bat where the ball hit it, and it seemed a very easy “not out” decision. At least it seemed clear to almost everyone except for the third umpire Shaun Haig. He noticed a small, dull mark on the bat before it hit the ball, and assumed that the large, bright mark on the bat after the ball went past might have been from the bat hitting the pad. To confirm this, he decided to look at snicko.
There weren't two clear spikes on snicko, so he decided to go with the on-field umpire’s decision, and Mitchell was out.
However, there were a couple of problems with the way that he made his decision. Firstly, he didn’t notice that there was a big difference between the size and brightness of the hot spots on the bat. The ball clearly hit the bat.
Next, he didn’t account for the difference in speed of sound and light. The ball hit the bat in front of the crease, at about knee height. That meant that the ball was about 1.6m away from the microphone on the ground, just behind the stumps. Sound travels at roughly 340 metres per second, meaning that the sound gets to the microphone about 0.004 seconds after the picture gets to the camera.
The cameras that are used have very high frame rates. Theoretically they are capable of recording at 2400 frames per second, but they probably capture at a lower rate than that. Looking at the pictures, the ball travelled about 10-15 centimetres in each frame. It was travelling at just under 100km per hour, so that suggests that the camera was captured at about 200 frames per second, or 0.005 seconds per image. That means that the sound on the snicko display would appear one frame after the ball hits the bat. As a result, a spike that happens as the ball hits the pad, actually came from the frame before that, when the ball was level with the bat.
This becomes obvious when you watch it in real time, because our brains are actually very good at adjusting for that difference. If you go to a stage show, and sit at the back of a large theatre, the sound of the actors will get to you after you’ve seen the actor’s mouth move, but your brain will be able to adjust for that, and it will seem like the sound arrives at the same time as the mouth moves.
To account for that difference, snicko should always be accompanied by listening and watching at full speed. By not doing that, Haig did not give himself the best opportunity to get the decision correct.
That was the second strange thing. But it was not the last.
Next, after Haig told Brown (the on-field umpire) to signal out, Williamson had an absolute brain-fade. The winner of the 'ICC Spirit of Cricket Award' for 2018 showed obvious and open dissent to the umpire’s decision. He told Mitchell not to leave, and argued his case. But it was in vain, and the umpires (rightly) did not change their decision based on his plea.
Williamson was completely out of line, and while his reaction was understandable, it was not even close to being acceptable, and according to the ICC Code of Conduct, should incur at least a 50 percent match fee fine. It will be up to David Boon, the match referee, to decide if the dissent was serious or not, and accordingly if it should be a 50 percent fine or a larger one (and even potentially a ban).
Then Williamson tried something that did have a chance of success. He asked Rohit Sharma to withdraw his appeal.
Law 31.8 states that the captain of the fielding side can ask the umpire for permission to withdraw their appeal. It’s important to note, that although Sharma was allowed to ask for permission to withdraw, the umpire could have still said no.
However, this situation was not the sort where a captain would normally consider withdrawing an appeal. That usually only happens when a member of the fielding side has done something to interfere with a batsman. An example might be where there’s been a collision between the bowler and a batsman running a single, and that’s prevented the batsman making his ground. Another situation might be if a fielder feels that he’s not properly taken a catch, and the umpire had already given the batsman out.
An umpiring mistake is not an instance when a captain would ordinarily withdraw his appeal. In choosing not to do so, Sharma acted the way that most captains would have in the same situation.
A poor decision is not unusual, but the way that the decision came about, and what happened as a result was certainly surprising.