Test Match Sofa
ECB endorse result of controversial Essex-Kent game
By Mark Baldwin
Kent anger over the controversial, and indeed farcical, finish to their floodlit Friends Life t20 match against Essex at Chelmsford has met with little sympathy from the England and Wales Cricket Board.
The official line from Lord’s is that the result, and scores, from the match should stand – even though this flies in the face of one of cricket’s central codes: that of fair play.
“It may have been an unfortunate incident, but all we can do at ECB is accept the official record of the match,” said Alan Fordham, the ECB’s head of cricket operations. “That was what was agreed by the match officials at the time, and I can’t really see what else we can now do.”
Kent lost the game by three runs after being bowled out for 155 from the last ball of their 20-over allocation. But, in the 19th over of their innings, Matt Coles hit a two – the result of a dropped catch at deep mid-wicket – which was not credited in the official scorebooks. As all the evidence – video, radio commentary included – shows, Kent scored 157 in their innings, not 155.
The reason for that was the two scorers had missed that particular ball being bowled after the umpires, George Sharp and Peter Willey, had ruled that Essex had been guilty of not bowling their 20 overs within the prescribed time limit.
Instead of Coles’s ‘two that never was’ being entered into their books, a ‘dot ball’ was written in. The Opta Index statistician sat nearby and employed by the ECB to score the match for them had included the Coles two in his machine, but had to change this - in line with the official scoreboard - as the game was bounding towards its thrilling climax and there was simply no time to check it out with the umpires, or players, and correct the scoreboard.
Mark Davies, the Kent last man, was thus faced with a situation where he had to hit the final ball of the match for four. He swung violently at Graham Napier’s near-yorker, missed, and was bowled.
Only afterwards, when told of the scorers’ mistake, and after Coles himself verified he had indeed hit eight runs, not his official six, did the Kent players realise that if the correct total had been on the board at the start of that last over, their win target would have been significantly easier to reach. Davies, indeed, would – and should – have had to hit two runs from that last ball for the win, not four, and just a single for the tie.
As an eyewitness at the match, my personal view is that the two umpires should have called a time out at the end of the 19th over to agree what the Kent total should have been, with the penalty runs added on. Initially, indeed, their signal of it to the scorers had been missed, leading to Sharp contacting the scorers on his walkie-talkie soon afterwards to ask why the runs had not been added on the scoreboard, and this too contributed to the general confusion both in the scorers’ room and around the ground.
A crowd close to 5,000 did not have a clue what was happening as the total on the board changed around several times, for apparently no reason, and Kent’s batsmen and other players out in the middle also had to ask the umpires what was going on. Surely, a time out – before the crucial 20th over started – would have allowed everyone to agree the correct total, and for an announcement to be made over the public address system about the penalty-run situation.
The fact that Coles was dismissed the ball after hitting his two that was not acknowledged also did not help. If he had still been at the wicket at the start of that final over, he would have been able to query why the score next to his name was incorrect.
Lessons need to be learned by the ECB and the county clubs from this incident, but for now Kent’s sense of grievance does not end at the fact that they have lost a match that, if the books had been kept correctly, they might have won.
Net run rate could yet also be a deciding factor in who qualifies and who does not from the notoriously fiercely-fought South Group and, with hundreds of thousands of pounds available to those counties who get into the last eight and, from there, into Finals Day and potentially the Champions League, those two lost runs might – just might – come back to haunt Kent again.
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