No gentleman’s game: Is DLS ruining cricket?

The Australian domestic cricket season got underway on Friday, but not without controversy. The Junction Oval was encompassed with dispute around the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method (DLS) that leads us to think: is the DLS system ruining cricket?

The Marsh Cup promised to kick the domestic season off with a bang with the first fixture featuring the two oldest and most successful state teams in Australia: New South Wales, and Victoria.

Victoria won the toss and elected to bowl, likely to see how the pitch was playing so early in the season. The sun was shining down on the Junction Oval as the players jogged out onto the pitch, looking to dust off some cobwebs and set a good precedent for the season.

The new skipper and NSW veteran Dan Hughes made their way to the crease to face a youthful Victorian bowling attack. They put on a 50-run partnership where both openers tore apart Mitch Perry before Murphy took off Patterson’s leg stump with an arm-ball to claim the first wicket of the summer.

After the slip-up from the skipper, Dan Hughes kept going in remarkable fashion, carving out a classy innings, continuing to etch his name alongside the best to have played one-day cricket for New South Wales.

He reached his seventh one-day century for NSW, putting him above the likes of Smith, Warner, Haddin, Maddinson and Phil Jacques in the race for the most one-day hundreds. His 117 also meant he surpassed Warner into 11th place on the state’s all-time run-scorers chart with 1656 at 57.10.

Daniel Hughes of New South Wales

(Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Murphy was the pick of the hosts bowlers who also claimed Sangha and finished an economical spell of 2-29 from his 10 overs. Henriques and Gilkes provided the support for Hughes in partnerships of 87 and 88 second and third-wicket partnerships as the Vics started eying off the 300-run mark with 10 overs to go.

However, both Hughes and Gilkes fell to Merlo in the space of four balls as the Blues reigned in the Bushrangers’ middle order, keeping them to a total of 277 runs.

Will Pucovski returned to List A cricket from his latest concussion and Mackenzie Harvey started the run-chase off brightly before rain intervened after nine overs. After the resumption, Pucovski and Harris both fell in the space of five balls to swing the momentum back to the Blues with Victoria at 3-130 after 25 overs.

The rain loomed over the horizon once more, turning the final four overs into a tense predicament. Handscomb, the Bushrangers captain, alongside Matt Short kept Victoria ahead of the par DLS score until the last ball of the 28th over in which they had to be in front of to win if play was stopped.

With the game tied and Victoria level with the par score at 3-148, the players and umpires started to shape to leave the field due to bad light. However, Peter Handscomb had different idea about the situation and pleaded with the umpires at the end of the 28th to remain on the field so they could get ahead of the par score.

After much persuasion, the umpires gave in, and the game continued.

Kurtis Patterson allowed the game to continue by bowling his part-time spinner, Jason Sangha. Matt Short was able to hit the last ball of the over for six, getting ahead of the par score. Once they got ahead of the game Handscomb took off his gloves and walked off the field, claiming there was not enough light, although it had gotten lighter since the previous over when he persuaded the umpires to stay on.

Brendon Julian put it like this: “Any excuse to get off the ground and not play looks to be the first thing first in his mind. Peter Handscomb pleaded with the umpire to say we want to stay out and get ahead of the run rate, bowl the spinner and we will stay out here. They got ahead and suddenly Peter Handscomb took his gloves off and started walking off saying the light’s bad… it should never be up to the players.

“Kurtis Patterson, the captain of NSW out there pleading, trying to get the umpires to start this game, but the umpire, Phil Gillespie, is saying it is unsafe to play. This is just a joke, a sad indictment for cricket.”

A sad indictment for cricket indeed to see that a player can selfishly take advantage of a fault in the rules and lead his team to victory because of that. Forget about cricket being a gentleman’s game, with the way that game out there was played today you’d think it were individuals bending the rules for one’s own advantage. Is the Duckworth-Lewis system encouraging and bringing about that sort of behaviour?

Who determines what a par score is when you are chasing a total in the first place? Whatever happens from now on, Australia must take a good look at this DLS system by either changing it or condemning those actions took by Handscomb to alter a game’s outcome to prevent them from becoming a regular occurrence.

Nevertheless, Matt Short, in the pressure and situation of the game, capitalised and led his team to victory in the inaugural game of the season. Whether that win sets a good precedent for the season is yet to be seen.

It could foster an unhealthy environment in the Victorian dressing room or set them up for the rest of the season but what we have learnt is that the DLS system has the implications in which players feel they can take advantage of the system and alter it to suit their ideals.

Were the players’ actions gentlemanly and honourable in the way cricket was intended to be played? I don’t think so.

Is the DLS system ruining the game or does it just add another facet that tests the character of the players and the spirit in which the game is played? If it’s the latter, did they pass?

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