Have your say on the Test series
In bat with Slats
Michael Slater is a former opening batsman for Australia and now well respected member of the Wide World of Sports cricket commentary team.
One unforseen effect of the Decision Referral System (DRS) is that wrapping up a Test match is becoming increasingly tougher. Sri Lanka were courageous in their efforts to save the First Test in Hobart, but their cause was helped by the intervention of the DRS on several LBW decisions that were line-ball calls. Kumar Sangakarra in particular lasted a lot longer in the middle thanks to the DRS overruling two decisions made by the umpires in the middle.
Before the introduction of the DRS, close call LBW decisions were accepted as part of the game. As a batsman sometimes you copped a bad one, sometimes you survived a bad one. You might curse your luck, but you knew it would generally even out over time.
The game has now reached the point where batsmen are deliberately taking guard on off stump, knowing that they only have to be struck a fraction outside the line and DRS will come to their rescue. Umpires are making instant judgement calls based on what they see, and after review they end up looking like they've made a wrong decision.
The DRS was never intended to rule on these fine line judgement calls, it was introduced to catch the really bad decisions. We saw during the first innings that Sri Lanka's Rangana Herath was dismissed LBW despite a massive inside edge. Due to his upper order teammates reviewing almost every decision and getting two wrong, he had to leave the crease despite the howler. Clearly the system is not perfect and adjustments need to be made.
With Ben Hilfenhaus out of the bowling attack and Nathan Lyon proving ineffective as a wicket-taking option, Australia did really well against a strong batting line-up to win late on the final day at Bellerive. Peter Siddle was at his hard-working best and Mitchell Starc proved to doubters that he does deserve his place in the team. He has been erratic at times and fans might have been wondering what the selectors saw in the tall left-armer. I think he was down on confidence a bit in Perth and in the first innings in Hobart, but his efforts in the second innings showed just how effective he can be.
It seemed as though someone had fired Starc up and told him to increase his aggression levels. He's a bit like South Africa's Morne Morkel in that he has all the natural attributes of a great fast bowler but might be missing a bit of mongrel at times. On day five in Hobart he had the Sri Lankans ducking for cover in between firing in some brilliant swinging yorkers. He thoroughly deserved his five-wicket haul and will take a lot of confidence into future Tests.
The series moves to Melbourne for the Boxing Day Test with the Australians on top. If Sri Lanka had squeezed a draw out of Hobart, the morale in the Australian camp would have taken a real battering and the series could have been almost up for grabs. I think Michael Clarke will almost definitely take his place in the side and he and the selectors will have a tough decision to make on who will replace the injured Hilfenhaus.
If they want to take a form strike bowler into the Test, I'd be picking Jackson Bird. He has been tearing the domestic competition up and not just on his bowler-friendly home pitch in Hobart. He would come into the team in the same way Phil Hughes has, in red-hot form and full of confidence in his own ability.
If Clarke and the selectors feel that Mitchell Johnson looks like being back near his best they will probably go with him. Johnson at his best is a genuine match-winner, with the ball, the bat and his athleticism in the field. It will come down to where they think he is form wise, without having seen a lot of him domestically of late.
I think Australia will wrap up the series in Melbourne, but with Herath being much more effective on the MCG pitch it won't be without a fight. He is a quality bowler who just needs a bit more support from his seamers to really apply some pressure on the Australian batsmen. It promises to be another enthralling battle and a great way to spend Boxing Day.
Is the Decision Referral System being misused?
How would you change the rules of using DRS?
What will the series result be against Sri Lanka?