Cricket fans and commentators are calling for changes to be made to rules around catches after a controversial moment involving Steve Smith. The Aussies thought they'd dismissed Dean Elgar on day four of the third Test when Smith dived low and to his right in an attempt to snaffle a catch.
Smith appeared to believe he'd caught the ball, but the on-field umpires sent the decision to the third umpire. Replays showed the ball going straight into Smith's right hand, however there was a part of the ball that looked like it was touching the grass.
Under the black-and-white letter of the law, no part of the ball is allowed to touch the ground during a catch attempt, even if it is safely in a fielder's hand at the same time. Third umpire Richard Kettleborough therefore came back with a decision of not out and Elgar was given a brief reprieve.
— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) January 7, 2023
The incident was markedly similar to one involving Marnus Labuschagne earlier in the match when Simon Harmer claimed a low catch. However Kettleborough also gave that not out after the ball could be seen touching the grass.
Former top umpire Simon Taufel told Channel 7 that Kettleborough had made the right call, explaining: “The really good angle in that process was from behind the slips cordon, when you saw the ball actually on the ground.
"I‘m very happy that Richard has made that call. You can see the ball goes into the hand but the ball cannot touch the ground through that process."
Despite the officials making the right call, some fans and commentators questioned whether the rules should be changed as to not be so strict. Others also decried the 'soft signal' process in which the on-field umpires give their initial decision before sending it upstairs.
However Taufel also revealed that the ICC has recently tweaked the 'soft signal' process to give the third umpire more power in making a decision that might go against the initial on-field call. “We must remember that this soft signal process has been tweaked a little bit. This decision was entirely in the hands of the third umpire," he said.
Speaking on SEN radio, former Aussie opener Phil Jaques labelled the decision "so bad". Co-commentator Ian Smith said: "Phil Jaques and I are both lost for words".
"So bad... his fingers are clearly under the ball."
Third Umpire Richard Kettleborough has caused a stir after ruling Steve Smith didn't catch the ball above the ground.#AUSvSA pic.twitter.com/1mpQhXQLOQ
— SEN Cricket (@SEN_Cricket) January 7, 2023
Both Elgar/Smith and Labuschagne/Harmer moments are fair catches in my opinion (which I realise no one wants haha)… cricket has a funny way of evening itself out.
— Neroli Meadows (@Neroli_Meadows) January 7, 2023
Wow… unsure how that’s not out!? 😳 clear control with fingers under the ball? 🤷🏼♀️ Soft signal rule needs to go imo. #AUSvSA
— Megan Schutt (@megan_schutt) January 7, 2023
This is out, so was Marnus. But having given Marnus not out... #AUSvSA
— Daniel Brettig 🏏 (@danbrettig) January 7, 2023
That’s a disgraceful call from the third umpire, unbelievable #AUSvSA
— JAKE 🇦🇺 (@IncrediblyBozza) January 7, 2023
Australia hunting 14 wickets to win third Test at SCG
The Aussies will head into the final day at the SCG needing another 14 wickets to secure an unlikely victory and a 3-0 whitewash of the series. After Pat Cummins declared before play on Saturday and left Usman Khawaja stranded on 195 not out, South Africa made it to 6-149 at stumps.
Australia's only real hope of winning the Test match is to bowl the Proteas out for under 275 in their first innings, enforce the follow-on and bowl them out again. A win in Sydney would seal Australia's place in the World Test Championship final.
"I think (we can do it)," Josh Hazlewood said at stumps. "From what we saw today we bowled 50-odd overs and took six wickets. And the wicket after a bit of traffic down it looked quite nice with Gazza (Nathan Lyon) bowling into that rough."
Hazlewood said he and Cummins would do everything in their power to bowl Australia to victory, knowing they don't play another Test until the India tour in February. Hazlewood and Cummins are Australia's only fast bowling options, with the Aussies opting to carry Ashton Agar as an extra spinning option alongside Nathan Lyon.
"There are enough quicks now to probably have that mindset going into any game," he said. "You're there in that XI to win that Test match, and do whatever it takes to win it.
"And then you see how everyone has pulled up after it regardless. But it's in the back of your mind a bit, we have three weeks off and you can sort of burn yourself on Sunday if the pace is playing more of a part than spin."
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