SA ‘aided’ by rookie umpire

2014-08-11 12:37
Chris Gaffaney (AFP)

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 eventually did.

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 offers.

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 match”.

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 against them.

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 ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  cricket

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