Umpires’ Day at the Gabba



The second day of the First Test between Australia and New Zealand will be remembered as a day when weirdness and officialdom took over the game. Actually, let me start again: the second day of the First Test between Australia and New Zealand will not be remembered.

Two things happened.

One, the Australian skipper, having played on when trying to get his bat out of the way of a ball he’d decided to leave, was called back to continue his innings after the umpire went upstairs to check to see if Bracewell had bowled a no-ball. He had. My first reaction was that there was something weird about the decision, something lawyer-and-accountant about it. But that was the reaction of my gut. My mind wasn’t sharp enough to work out why.

And two, play ended at about quarter to five sun time, because there is no daylight saving in the Deep North (where plebiscites have shown Queenslanders plebs emphatically opposed to it). It had been a grey day. But if club and park cricketers jumped off the Queensland Blue couch for that sort of cloud cover then there’d be a lot less cricket up there. But the umpires have the say, and no doubt the lawyers have the power, and dangerous conditions are no doubt an issue of occupational health and safety. (Would Curtley down wind on at the WACA be an issue of occupational health and safety).

My mind is still working through these issues, and has had plenty of time to do it.

So what else happened? Well, I wasn’t there, which peeved me, although a phone call to the usual crew after play to see which watering hole they were all at revealed that neither were they and Spud Murphy said there was no interest from our Gabba-Friday-of-the-Test-is-part-of-the-liturgy congregation. Interesting. And no-one going this weekend. Beer, catching up and cricket usually have enough appeal. And none are delegates at the ALP Conference either.

From the TV, I can tell you that after resuming the Kiwis settled in. The Australian quicks bolwed without venom, inconsistent of line and length, and Vettori and Brownlie consolidated. They never looked totally settled, which is probably why Vettori took a few chances, having worked out the probabilities: there was as much chance of getting out grafting 14 over an hour as there was in thrashing 14 in an over.

So they built their partnership, and I had my head in the computer, looking up occasionally to see a fast Starc delivery pass outside the off-stump.

That changed just before drinks when Nathan Lyon was introduced. If nothing else, he is interesting. He has a nice over-the-top action, he gives it a rip, and he varies his deliveries. Something happens when he’s at the crease, and Vettori paid him (and the wicket) a nice compliment by going after him. Lyon held one back just a fraction (as off-spinners can do), Vettori slogged, and the ball steepled to wide mid-on. Had Michael Holding been at deep backward square he’d have caught it no the fly. Had Warney been bowling he’d have called early and run out and snaffled it. Had Roger harper been at mid-on he’d have chested it like a soccer striker, let it run down his sternum,  down his old fella, flicked it up and caught it, head-bowed, on the back of his neck. Mitchell Starc didn’t get a hand on it. He will be sending his creams to the dry cleaner – for the grass stains?

Vettori slogged again, this time straight, and Lyon got a hand on a ball which continued to the boundary. Lyon countered with quicker deliveries a couple of which bit and turned, and some classically flighted off-spinners which also turned. Vettori no doubt took note.

They continued to compile the runs, looing relatively untroubled, and the Australians appeared tested. Until Vettori ran himself out. Playing firmly to mid-off – more firmly than he realised (darn these new bats) – he took off. Hussey fielded optimally. And threw down the stumps at the bowlers end. Run out. That I thought it was a disaster is testimony to the respect I have developed over the years for Vettori. The No. 7 batsman makes 90 and I’m thinking disaster.

Wickets then started to fall. Siddle made the new batsman play (yeah!) and Young nicked to Clarke. Then Clarke was in the action again when Bracewell edged to him off Lyon (bowling admirably). Southee went the slog, as is his way, and holed out to Hussey but not before registering 17, and Martin played another Chaplin innings until Lyon put a delivery threw him which had off-spinners the world over believing in their craft again. Brownlie was left on 77 not out in what can only be described as an early-career innings. As if he’d just been promoted from Colts to Seniors on technique and promise, and had enough ticker to survive. Give him time.

The Australians faced a couple of overs before lunch and Vettori’s mental notes made while facing Lyon were translated into the opening essay. He took the new ball, partly I suspect because of what he had noted, and also to ensure a second over. His over was serviceable, and the ploy worked when Warner (really!) gloved Southee to Young.

The ball continued to move around after lunch. Martin got a nice one to move across  Hughes and Guptill clutched the nick. The pressure was on Khawaja and, especially, Ponting. The former skipper was patient, and played the percentages (again). Khawaja seemed to have time, and played some lovely shots, and slowly the Australians became comfortable, and then started to build a very solid partnership.

It was broken with the first delivery after Tea when Williamson hit the stumps with Khawaja just short of his ground. He trudged off wondering what had just happened and wishing the Mulligans rule applied. The skipper strode in, bobbed about the crease until he’d worked out the pace of the wicket, and then he and Ponting dispatched the bad ones and paid respect to the good ones.

When he played on it came as something of a surprise. What followed was a bigger surprise. Umpire ?, suspecting he had missed a near-no=ball, called for a review. His suspicions were confirmed. Clarke was recalled. Ponting  was jubilant: he has never had trouble using the bare-faced dog-ate-my-homework excuse.

My nose crinkled as I tried to work it out. The letter of the law: yes. Due process: yes. Sport? How does that all fit together?  What is the place of law in sport? What is a sporting contest? I’ll leave these questions hanging.

Clarke settled back in and he was 1/28 at stumps, with the Australians at 3/154, in a Test match which is interestingly poised, especially if the Kiwis can claim an early wicket.


About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three kids - Theo13, Anna11, Evie10. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst three. His ambition is to lunch for Australia.


  1. Peter Flynn says

    Thanks JTH,

    I didn’t see much of Day 2.

    The light rule grates.

    Vale Sam Loxton.

    Now only Harvey and Morris remain from ’48.

  2. Peter Flynn says


    I’m warming to Lyon athough he’s ageing before our eyes.

    He seems to be a wicket-taker.

  3. Umpires, law makers and lawyers##@@**
    I hear that the WA Racing Stewards will be doing the Second Test so they can overturn any unfortunate results affecting the locals.
    Aleem Dar and Aseef Rau will be at Ascot in the stewards tower. Apparently one will count the whip strokes in the straight. Any more than 6 in an over will see the jockey no-balled. The other will check the light meter and will cancel the last 2 races if it gets cloudy. Good thing really. The national last race get out at Ascot has always constituted a danger to punters.

  4. Off topic but Mr Harms would you happen to be acquainted with my Uncle Tony Moon? Jolly man, loves a laugh and copious amounts of good quality vino

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