At the SCG today, Phil Hughes knew immediately that he had not made the catch off Cook on 99. Ian Bell knew immediately that he had nicked the ball.
From an early age those who go on to play cricket learn the difference between catching a ball on the way down and a ball rising as a half volley from the ground. The two have a totally different feel on the hands. Cricketers can tell with their eyes shut.
Similarly, but from a not quite so early an age, a batsman learns the feel that comes through the bat when he has edged the ball. There is no mistaking that sensation of ball on bat, however faint. It is totally different from the feel from a bat having clipped his pad or his foot on the way through its swing.
Both Hughes and Bell also gave the game away in their body language and ill-disguised hesitations when questioned by team mates or interviewers.
These are professional sportsmen who almost daily risk losing their livelihood, especially in the early stages of their careers, at the hands of poor umpiring decisions augmented by the ploys of their opponents.
That is why there are umpires. It is why the game must give them every possible technical aid as quickly at their disposal as technically possible. Why administrators and referees must come down hard on any action that seeks to influence or pressurise the decision taking. And why there must be no toleratation of descent once a decision has been made.
Professionalised cricket is an industry. In each match there are in the region of twenty five small firms ‘in play’. If the chairman and chief executive of one such firm stands, rather than walks, claims falsely, rather than fesses up, we should not be surprised. It is a business decision.
But there is a place for ethical self-respect in business and in life. The choice is with the individual.
Meanwhile Bell demonstrated the kind of batting described here yesterday with back foot shots played to the rising ball through a full arc around the field interspersed with sumptuous front foot drives that threaded the field. His balance footwork and timing were magnificent.
At close of play, Cook confided to an interviewer that, batting the way he has since Brisbane, there have been periods when, as for a Zen master encountering the sublime, time passed in a blurr. ‘Is it really effing drinks already, mate?’.
It was meet therefore that his 189 took his series total beyond that of Herbert Sutcliffe’s huge achievement in the Ashes of 1924/25.
Cook’s total is still some way short of W.R. Hammond’s 905 [at an average 113.12] made in 1928/29, which fact underscores Hammond’s achievement and in no way diminishes that of Cook. 1928/29 is still the closest template for this series that sadly for England supporters is drawing to its close.