/ 30 April 2007

Speed apologises for ‘sad’ end to Cup

International Cricket Council (ICC) chief executive Malcolm Speed apologised on Sunday for the ”very sad way” the World Cup Final finished amid farcical scenes.

Players and spectators at the Kensington Oval, not to mention millions of television viewers, were left baffled by the climax to Saturday’s match, which saw Australia celebrate victory twice and forced Sri Lanka to bat in pitch-black darkness on a ground without floodlights.

A team of officials, including on-field umpire Steve Bucknor, standing in a record fifth World Cup final, managed to overlook a standard playing condition.

This states that once 20 overs have been bowled in both innings, enough cricket has been played to have a result declared under the Duckworth-Lewis system for rain-affected games.

Instead the teams, following instructions from Bucknor and Pakistan’s Aleem Dar, the other on-field umpire, came back on to bowl three more overs in gathering gloom in a match Australia then won by 53 runs under the Duckworth-Lewis system.

Speed, flanked by ICC general manager David Richardson, who oversees the sport’s elite officials, told a Kensington Oval news conference on Sunday: ”David and I are here today [Sunday] on behalf of ICC to say to the wider stakeholders of the game that we, too, are very sorry this incident occurred at the end of what, on any view, had been an outstanding day of cricket.

”It was an unnecessary error, a fundamental error, it was made under difficult circumstances at the end of the match.

”It was unfortunate, a very sad way to finish the World Cup. I hope we can recall the great day’s cricket we had before this very unfortunate ending.”

One consolation was that, with Australia well ahead, the incorrect ruling didn’t affect the outcome.

Former South Africa wicket-keeper Richardson couldn’t explain how a group, including match referee Jeff Crowe and experienced third umpire Rudi Koertzen, could make such a basic mistake.

”We’ve tried to come up with an explanation and we can’t. We’ve spoken to them [the officials] and they are at a loss to try to explain.

”I can only say it’s similar to the situation where you are sitting at home and the answer to a quiz question on TV looks very simple and you just lose your train of thought when you are in that heated, pressure situation.

”If you do get sidetracked by the pressure situation it only takes one guy to sow a seed of doubt in the other people’s minds.”

Crowe, a former New Zealand batsman, suggested on Saturday that South Africa’s Koertzen had initiated the sequence of events that led to the final’s bizarre conclusion and Richardson said: ”I think that’s quite correct.”

He added: ”What worries me, as the guy ultimately responsible for how match officials perform, is that we get ourselves into a pressure situation and we are not able to cope with it.

”That’s what it’s about, whether you are playing or officiating.

”Everybody knows, you all know, certainly as players once we got to 20 overs [in the second innings], we all used to rub our hands and say ‘tomorrow’s off’. I’m sure you think the same way and the umpires do as well, funnily enough. It just went a bit cloudy.”

Speed insisted no member of the five-man playing control team faced instant dismissal but Richardson said: ”Malcolm has said we are not going to over-react but we are certainly going to take it very seriously and look at how it could have happened.” — Sapa-AFP