– Windies in comfortable position after unbeaten half centuries from Gayle, Sarwan

By Haydn Gill in Jamaica

It was the day that the third umpire became the first umpire.

The trial referral system, a bone of contention, was turned to on five occasions in an eventful post-lunch session on the second day of the first Digicel Test between West Indies and Australia at Sabina Park yesterday Daryl Harper, the third umpire charged with the responsibility for assisting in making calls on decisions that are challenged, came under the microscope as referral after referral came his way.

In a way, the drama and the intrigue over the system and the length of time some decisions took before confirmation, somewhat overshadowed the position of the game in which a solid second wicket century stand between captain Chris Gayle and Ramnaresh Sarwan has put West Indies in a position of comfort.

Gayle, cautious at times and commanding at others, batted with a measure of control throughout for an unbeaten 71 and is  seemingly on the way to his first Test hundred in his native Jamaica, while Sarwan made the most of referrals that went in his favour to carve out a plucky undefeated 74. They spent the last half of the day building an encouraging foundation that left West Indies sitting pretty at 160 for one replying to England’s 318.

Gayle made his intentions quite clear at the start, lashing Andrew Flintoff’s second ball over long-on for a six when the feet didn’t move and there was just as much venom when he pulled Steve Harmison’s fourth ball over cow-corner for another half-dozen.

Gayle also hoisted Monty Panesar over long-off for six, but for most the remainder of the afternoon, he settled down to bat responsibly and it was a surprise that he only had three fours to his name. Sarwan, short of runs of the tour of New Zealand, played soundly after his early worries to move within 17 of 5,000 Test runs, and both he and Gayle lifted their Test averages to 40 in the process on a day when the major talking point was the referrals. Four of them came from one end, two were changed by umpire Tony Hill, one of which was to alter an initial not out call and the other was to reverse a decision that was originally given as out.

Like everything else, this referral system has its pros and cons. It will help to correct some umpiring mistakes and add to living-room excitement for television viewers, but it can be painfully boring to spectators in the stands who don’t have the benefit of big-screen replays and are clueless about what is going on.

They would have waited for eternity – only four minutes, but it seemed like forever – for the fifth referral of the day, one of the decisions which Hill had to change on the advice of Harper. It was the second time in half-hour that Sarwan’s heart might have missed a few beats.

For the first when he was on two, he was given not out for an lbw call against Flintoff. When the referral was made, the television replays confirmed that ball pitched outside leg stump.

Hill upheld Harmison’s appeal for another lbw enquiry before Sarwan, on five, consulted his captain on if there was sufficient doubt.

It took about the time that Sulieman Benn would have delivered two overs before the standing umpire ruled Sarwan in after Harper watched countless replays which seemed to indicate that the ball might have passed over the stumps.

Less than an hour earlier, however, Devon Smith wasn’t so fortunate. The little opening batsman’s return to Test cricket was short-lived and his dismissal would trigger some to ask if he deserved to come back to the big league.

Smith didn’t appear to see where a ball from Flintoff and shouldered arms for the ball to cannon into his pad. Hill ruled against the lbw appeal, presumably on the grounds that the ball was pitched outside leg stump but had to send Smith on his way after the info was relayed by the TV replay official.

The drama that followed at the start of West Indies’ reply was preceded by two unsuccessful referrals contested by England Nos. 10 and 11.

Steve Harmison wasn’t too far off the mark in asking for a second look, but it was clear he was lbw to Jerome Taylor to a ball of fullish length.

Monty Panesar, however, probably asked for a referral because he and England had nothing to lose, but it was a waste of time. He was struck on the pad before the ball hit and bat and an lbw verdict provided left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn with his fourth wicket of the innings.

West Indies claimed success with the second new ball at the start of the day, but once again it was the slower stuff that looked more threatening.

Daren Powell removed Flintoff for his overnight 43, but it was from a ball of no real merit that the batsman slapped to the fielder at point when the ball should have been racing to the boundary.

It was the start of a satisfactory morning for West Indies who managed to dislodge the last five England wickets for 82 after the visitors resumed on 236 for five.

It could have been better had Shivnarine Chanderpaul not missed a high catch which the sun gave problems nor Brendan Nash not dropped an easier chance.

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