Would someone please pass Bruce Oxenford a bottle of Scotch and the revolver?
As the third umpire in yesterday’s Champions Trophy final, what on earth – I mean just what on earth – was he doing when he gave Ian Bell out stumped?
Bell had pushed forward to Ravindra Jadeja, and missed – but when MS Dhoni removed the bails, Bell’s back foot was – as you can see above – both on the ground, and behind the crease. Not by much, but by enough.
So far, so good, from an English point of view – until Oxenford, entirely inexplicably, decided that foot down behind crease = out. And thus, Bell had to go. WTF?
My analysis, based on twelve hours reflection, may seem a little crude, but boils down to the following possibilities about Bruce Oxenford’s faculties:
– he doesn’t know the laws of cricket
– he suffered a temporary bout of insanity
– he is completely stupid
– he cannot see.
Some people have described the replays which ultimately condemned Bell as ‘inconclusive’ – and if so, Oxenfold should have reprieved the batsman with the benefit of the doubt. But they are hardly inconclusive – the pictures show that Bell was in.
In the past, you could defend umpires by saying that they only saw the action once, at full speed. With video decisions, however, we can all see exactly the same evidence – at the same speed and as many times – as the third umpire does. We knew it was in. So why, on the same evidence, did the official believe the opposite – and with enough confidence to convict?
Oxenfold should be sacked. At the very least, he is obliged to explain in public exactly what was his rationale, and why he gave Bell out. Umpires generally deserve a large degree of deference and respect, and on this particular blog we very rarely criticise them. But they are not beyond censure or criticism, and the responsibilities they assume, and the fees they are paid, make them accountable.
Did Oxenfold’s decision cost us the match yesterday? Yes. You can argue quite forcefully that, with 20 required from the last 16 balls, our batsmen should still have closed out the game. Bell’s dismissal, however, changed the balance of the match, and the batsmen at the crease, which meant that everything that followed was different from would have happened otherwise. Had Bell survived, the equation with 16 balls to come would have been different. And remember, we ultimately only lost by five runs.
In the end, then, other 50-over world tournament ends in heartbreak for us. Forever the bridesmaid, never the bride, we have now lost in the final five times – the 1979, 1987 and 1992 World Cups, and the 2004 Champions Trophy, along with yesterday’s debacle. Three of those five defeats have been at home. Alastair Cook spoke of how much the disappointment at Edgbaston hurt the team, but they should spare a thought for us, the followers, who have had to endure these near-misses all our lives. It’s easier for the players – they only have to go through this once; we have to do it time and again.
The rain didn’t help, because the T20 format the weather effectively imposed made the final more of a lottery, and worked against our strengths – the capacity of our bowling to throttle the opposition batting for long periods. Instead of twenty overs from Anderson and Broad, the shortening of the match meant they could only bowl eight.
Will yesterday’s anti-climax affect our team’s confidence and morale for the Ashes? You’d hope not. We still played pretty well, overall, and by the time the series gets underway (and with a slightly different squad), Edgbaston will more or less have been forgotten. You would far rather be in our position than Australia’s – and we’ll be back on Wednesday to discuss the latest calamities in the Baggy Green camp.