After disappearing for a few days to work on a book and take in some tennis at Wimbledon, I return to cricket duty to discover a huge controversy erupting over a run-out in a one-day international. Apart from feeling grateful that England and New Zealand had provided such good copy for my forthcoming volume (you can never have too much good material) I was slightly surprised by the outcry about Grant Elliott’s dismissal.
Now, while absent in the grounds of the All England Club, the only news I had heard about what was unfolding at The Oval was that the Kiwis needed about 80 off the last 18 with six wickets in hand, and still in the dark when I arrived home in the dark (great five-setter on Court 14 didn’t finish until gone 9pm) I found the Sky highlights had just started and so decided against looking the details up on Ceefax.
What a treat that was, as NZ began to implode and it looked as if England might pull this one out of the fire. But then came The Incident. It was hard, because it all happened a bit too quickly for the Sky director, to see what had occurred at first – but even before a replay had been prepared, Nasser was calling it a sad day for cricket, boos were ringing out and the Kiwi dressing-room were issuing hand signals that would shame a football terrace in the direction of the England balcony, which they looked set to storm in a frenzy of righteous indignation.
There was a slight sadness in my stomach that it had come to this because, according to most reports, the atmosphere between the two teams in this series and the one that preceded it in New Zealand, had been very good.
But once I saw the replay, the pictures of umpire Mark Benson’s arms resting on Collingwood’s shoulders and the captain’s readiness to pull his team away from Elliott, who seemed ready to take them all on at the chance of an untoward word, I had to side with Collingwood.
As he said afterwards, the collision between the bowler and batsman was completely accidental. It was just hard luck – and it must be remembered that the misfortunes of individuals in cricket are myriad. England took advantage and while that may have been harsh, it was certainly, within the rules, fair.
We are often concerned that our cricketers are not ruthless enough and when, in the heat of the moment we are, everyone comes down on us like a ton of bricks. Now, in a future Ashes contest, the urn resting on such a moment, our players will be too scared to act in such a manner. How would Ricky Ponting have acted in a similar situation? I think we know the answer to that.
Collingwood was a decent enough bloke to apologise about an action in the heat of a tight contest he was desperately trying to win, and Daniel Vettori a decent enough bloke to accept that and move on – though whether he would have felt the same if England had not made a mess of the final ball must be doubtful.
But I, for one, think Collingwood was right to act and ask questions later.