Cape Town – South Africa, a little unexpectedly, are
involved in a dogged struggle against unsung Zimbabwe in the lone Test match at
Harare Sports Club ... and the situation could be tougher for them, but for the
inadvertent contributions in their favour of a raw umpire.
New Zealander Chris Gaffaney, making his debut at this
level, found himself in the unenviable position during the Zimbabwean first
innings of virtually all flashpoints happening on his beat, as it were.
Gaffaney, a Dunedin-born former Otago first-class batsman,
is partnered in this fixture by the vastly more experienced Pakistani Aleem
Dar, standing in his 90th Test ... but Murphy’s Law took a cruel
hold as Dar, widely acknowledged as one of the best officials on the planet,
was almost exclusively at square leg for the variety of controversial
dismissals that occurred.
Up to five of the Zimbabwean wickets had at least some
element of possible doubt surrounding them, with two or three shown up by
television to be almost indisputably wrong.
It raises the possibility that, minus the errors, the
ninth-ranked home side might well have registered a first-knock total in excess
of 300 on a demanding, patience-testing pitch rather than the 256 they
There was no hiding place for the unfortunate Gaffaney, a
situation compounded by the unavailability for this Test of the Decision Review
System (DRS), which denied him the necessary protective qualities the process
If anything, the events in the Zimbabwean knock only served
as another compelling advertisement in favour of the system, as several
decisions would doubtless have been overturned on review.
Under the combustible circumstances it was almost inevitable
that at least one departing Zimbabwean batsman would show a forbidden degree of
displeasure: Tendai Chatara was officially reprimanded for a Code of Conduct
violation for “showing dissent at an umpire’s decision during an international
Adding to the feisty atmosphere at the time was the South
African wicket-taker, Dale Steyn, giving Chatara a noticeably vocal send-off,
as if to question the more widespread home-team disgruntlement over verdicts
Perhaps once he’d seen replays later of all the wickets to
fall, the otherwise admirably, consistently fired-up Steyn --- who ended with
his 24th five-wicket haul -- might have found reason to feel more
measured about his sentiments.
Gaffaney is the 50th New Zealander to become a
Test-level umpire, and by all accounts had been making sound enough
international strides ahead of his Zimbabwean first-innings gremlins: the
38-year-old has stood in 23 ODIs and 15 Twenty20 internationals.
Six of the those games have involved the Proteas, and they
have won five of them.
Perhaps buoyed by a desire to dispel any suggestion that
they’ve needed the unintended intervention of an umpire to keep their cheeky
neighbours at bay, the ICC Test mace-holding South Africans, through the
efforts of Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock, started to build a position of
overdue dominance on the third morning of the Test on Monday.
They must win to retain their hold on the No 1 ranking from
Australia, breathing right down their necks ...
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