Quick single: The umpire checks
Stuart Broad is leading an England rearguard. Australia have not managed to dislodge him with the second new ball and England’s total, once fragile, is beginning to take substantial shape. In the final over of his spell, Mitchell Johnson heaves his shoulders into a bouncer that rears at Broad, who jolts backwards to evade the ball and ends up on his backside. Haddin takes the ball and tosses it up with a shout. Johnson, seeing his keeper celebrate, wheels round to Umpire Dharmasena. The bowler has his arms out-stretched and bellows an appeal.
Dharmasena must determine whether the ball flicked the edge of Broad’s bat as he tore his upper body out of the way of Johnson’s bouncer.
The Sri Lankan steps around the stumps at the non-strikers end and walks along the edge of the pitch. The Australian fielders fall silent, and stop on their way to bestow hand-shakes and shoulder claps on the bowler. Broad, having regained his feet, watches Dharmasena approach him, holds his bat in one hand behind his back.
Dharmasena, a metre from Broad, holds out his right hand. Slowly Broad passes his bat to the umpire, who takes the handle in his left hand and toe in his right. Turning away from the batsman and with the fielders still frozen in place, Dharmasena looks up and down the blade, turning it carefully to look closely at the outside edge. After a couple of seconds, he turns back to Broad, restores the bat to him and walks back to his spot behind the non-strikers stumps. All thirteen players have their eyes on him, as well as the 14,000 spectators and a dozen cameramen, several score photographers.
Dharmasena raises his finger. The Australians finally make their way to Johnson for celebrations. Broad looks down, and strides across the square towards the dressing room.
This flight of fancy comes courtesy of the French Open Tennis Championship. Played on clay courts, the umpire is able to adjudicate on line calls by descending from her chair, walking to where the ball landed to see precisely where the fresh mark is. Back in front of the microphone at her chair, the umpire gives the verdict by confirming the score.
It’s a distinctive and entertaining facet of clay court tennis. All that it would take for its application to cricket would be for contact of ball on bat to make a predictable and recognisable mark on the bat. If it could be done, if.. what an improvement on the various technologies of the decision review system.