Special Correspondent

  • Jeff Crowe takes responsibility for confusion
  • Ricky Ponting appreciates Sri Lanka's nice gesture

    Bridgetown: Match referee Jeff Crowe admitted he was "very embarrassed" to have been part of the team that allowed Saturday's World Cup final between Australia and Sri Lanka to end in such chaos the Australian team was forced to abort its celebration and continue it three overs later.

    The matter is as follows: Sri Lanka's batsmen took up the offer of light after the 33rd over and went off the field. Sri Lanka was behind the Duckworth-Lewis par score. Twenty overs completed with the light extremely unlikely to improve because it was nearly night the match for all practical purposes was over.

    Ignorance

    But, the umpires came to a conclusion the three remaining overs the innings had been further shortened from 38 to 36 would have to be bowled if not on Saturday then on Sunday. It betrayed shocking ignorance of the rules: the reserve day was to be used only if the team batting second hadn't faced a minimum of 20 overs; Sri Lanka had.

    "Our understanding of it was the game was over," said Mahela Jayawardene. "With 20 overs done, and since we took light and were behind Duckworth-Lewis, Australia had won the game. But, the umpires came up and said three overs needed to be bowled on Sunday.

    "I tried explaining to them, but a decision had to be made quickly. I didn't see any point coming out on Sunday for these three overs. So I went over to Ricky (Ponting) and told him I'd be happy to bat three overs if he bowls spin because playing Tait and McGrath in that light would be stupid. We weren't trying to win the game. Had they bowled Tait and McGrath we would have had no chance. After making that call it would have been wrong on my part to try and win the game (against spin)."

    Wrong, again

    Having blundered in resuming the game in darkness, the umpires didn't dock overs for the time they had spent off the field! The three overs should have been reduced, but weren't.

    "The game was technically over with twenty overs completed, though if the light had improved we'd have come back on," said Crowe, to sceptical laughter. "But we made a mistake. We were all confused ourselves. There should have never been any talk of playing tomorrow.

    We also made a mistake in not reducing the overs remaining from three to two to one."

    Though Crowe said he took responsibility, he made oblique references to "a stronger voice" influencing the decision. He then admitted third umpire Rudi Koertzen was "involved" in the decision to force a continuation, but that the on-field umpires and he as match referee should have known the rules and not erred.

    Crowe admitted to a breakdown in communication between the umpires and the scoreboard operators, which resulted in images of Australia's first celebration broadcast around the world only to be followed by images of three more overs of purposeless cricket. That Andrew Symonds added a wicket, and Adam Gilchrist a stumping weren't mitigating.

    "The umpires don't know, I don't know," said Ricky Ponting. "It appeared we had a premature celebration for ten minutes. And then when we came out they didn't reduce any overs. It was a nice gesture on Sri Lanka's part to offer to play the three overs today. I thought initially that Aleem Dar was having a bit of a joke with us when we were celebrating. He was asking us to stop it. It might have been quite funny for those watching around the world."

    That the two captains came to a decision based on common sense and decency to cover up for the sequence of errors the ICC's best umpires and referee made was damning.

    The Australian team said it hoped the end wouldn't tarnish the victory. Crowe said, "It's fair to say the decision didn't influence the result."

    But, it was representative of the many administrative mistakes on view this World Cup.

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