Virat Kohli catch controversy can’t overshadow Australia and India’s thrilling second Test in Perth



December 17, 2018 06:04:37

Virat Kohli hardly hid his anger, and a large portion of online commentators made even less of an attempt to hold back theirs.

The Indian skipper had been given out caught in the slips by Peter Handscomb on 123, but debate was already raging as to whether the ball had carried to the fielder. Cue the familiar sights of grainy frame-by-frame replays and people trying to extrapolate data from them.

From one blurry angle, the ball looked to have gone flush into Handscomb’s hands. From another, you could swear the ball made contact with the grass first. And so confusion reigned.

There’s a catch to all this though, and it’s getting a bit silly that this needs to be repeated every time one of these incidents pop up. But evidently it does, so here goes: you can not tell a single thing about whether the ball carried or not from these two-dimensional replays.

It’s the worst possible guide, because not only does it teach us nothing, it casts artificial doubt on even the most cut-and-dried cases. It’s why umpires are told to give “soft signals”, because nearly 100 per cent of the time, the video replays are miles away from being conclusive.

What was telling was the near-unanimous response of past and present cricketers, who all reached and voiced the same conclusion.

On ABC Grandstand after stumps, Ed Cowan said there was “zero doubt” in his mind the ball had carried to Handscomb — who, by the way, shared Cowan’s conviction and is the only person who would really be able to know — and suggested Kohli could have taken the decision a little more graciously.

In another match, a moment like this involving the game’s biggest and best player could become an all-encompassing story. But this isn’t just any other Test match.

On a frantic third day, the narratives emerged and spread like cracks down the Perth Stadium wicket. Momentum swung harder and faster than Rishabh Pant, the intensity of the match feeling something more akin to the football games played here in the winter months.

India got closer to Australia’s first innings total than most had expected, especially considering Ajinkya Rahane perished in the first over, but then ultimately crumbled before properly taking an advantage.

Australia ducked and weaved and battled away through the latter part of the afternoon session with success, until Aaron Finch’s finger was split open like an overcooked sausage and the mood of the game shifted again.

Bumrah was near enough to unplayable in the evening, and Australian wickets fell with a concerning and familiar regularity after tea, but a healthy run rate meant the game continued to slip further into green and gold hands.

There have been times when you couldn’t trust your own eyes during this rollicking match, and especially on day three.

Not just in the case of the Kohli catch, but also in glancing at Bumrah’s figures — just one wicket at the cost of 25 runs — paints a picture of an economic but ultimately unthreatening bowling effort. In truth, it’s been as good a fast bowling performance from a visitor to these shores as there has been in many, many years.

Then there were the moments when you could have been convinced your eyes were deceiving you. Travis Head falling so neatly and meekly into the most blatant Wile E Coyote trap ever set probably comes under that banner.

But still there were times where everything was exactly as it appeared. The Aussies can hardly get bat on the brilliant Bumrah, Finch’s busted finger hurt like hell, Peter Handscomb is in a seriously bad way form-wise.

And so heading into day four today, nobody knows who’s in front, nobody knows what India can realistically chase, nobody knows what the pitch will do, and nobody knows if Finch will be able to bat. Nobody really knows anything.

So instead of trying to manufacture truths from deceptive replays, this is a match to embrace the ambiguity.

That sense of unknown has been fuelling this Test, and really the whole series, and could yet turn both into modern classics.







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