Mark Taylor has blasted the quality of umpiring on the final day of the third Test between Australia and South Africa after the Aussies were denied by a number of close calls. Australia needed 14 wickets on day five at the SCG to pull off an improbable victory, but ultimately fell well short.
South Africa reached 2-106 when play was called off with 5.1 overs remaining on Sunday. Australia's only hope of victory was to bowl South Africa out twice without having to bat again after over 100 overs were lost across the first three days.
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After taking six wickets on day four, it wasn't out of the realms of possibility that they could take 14 on Sunday. But Simon Harmer and Keshav Maharaj combined for an 85-run partnership that left the Aussies highly frustrated, especially when a couple of close lbw calls didn't go their way.
Nathan Lyon thought he'd trapped Harmer lbw twice in two overs, however umpire Paul Reiffel kept his finger down. Two DRS referrals both came back as 'umpire's call' despite ball-tracking showing the ball was going on to hit the stumps.
Things then got even worse for the Aussies in South Africa's second innings when Heinrich Klaasen appeared to be plumb in front, however this time it was Chris Gaffaney who turned down the appeal. Another DRS referral again came back as 'umpire's call' because not enough of the ball had hit the South African's pad in line with the stumps.
Replays showed the ball was cannoning into middle stump halfway up, leaving Lyon and the Aussie players fuming. Fans and commentators took to social media to blast the farcical scenes, with many calling for the 'umpire's call' element of DRS referrals to be scrapped.
Speaking to Wide World of Sports, former Australia captain Taylor labelled the Gaffeney decision "very poor" and called on umpires to be less conservative. "When a batsman goes back and across like that, and gets hit in the shin in front of off stump, you've got to give that out," he said.
"That's been out for 150 years of Test match cricket. And to give it not out and then to see on review that the only reason it stays not out is because it's inconclusive about whether it hit him in line with off stump or not - it's crashing into middle halfway up. That's disappointing. That's not good umpiring."
Steve Smith speaks out amid catch controversy
The Aussies also appeared hard done by when Steve Smith claimed a low catch off Klaasen's bat, only for third umpire Richard Kettleborough to overturn the on-field 'soft signal' of out. Kettleborough believed he could see the ball touching the grass while in between Smith's fingers, but the Aussie star disagreed.
In conceding that an earlier incident involving Dean Elgar probably wasn't out, Smith said: "Yesterday I was bit more uncertain than today. I was pretty certain I got underneath the one today.
"Because my wrist was kind of flexed I think I may have slid it along the grass potentially, but today I was pretty sure I got underneath it. I think those ones that are close to the turf always don’t look right.
"But today I felt the slap on my fingers and I knew I was under the ball. That happens – the umpire is there to make a decision."
Aussie captain Pat Cummins later joined a chorus of calls for cricket to change its rules around low catches. Ultimately the Aussies only had themselves to blame after Ashton Agar, Alex Carey, Travis Head and Marnus Labuschagne all dropped catches on day five.
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