IT is one of cricket’s oldest maxims that the umpire’s decision is final.
So when Yorkshire pace bowler Steve Patterson won a controversial lbw against Ben Foakes on day two of the Champion County match in Abu Dhabi, there was little the MCC batsman could do about it but take umpire Neil Mallender’s verdict on the chin.
Foakes, the 23-year-old Surrey wicketkeeper, had taken considerably more steps back to the pavilion than the 17 runs he had put up alongside his name when his doleful departure was stopped in its tracks.
Mallender and square-leg official David Millns – who had come together as all umpires do at the fall of a wicket – decided that there had, in fact, been an inside edge and called the batsman back to the crease.
The incident was an early contender for the 2017 Wisden almanack’s ‘Index of Unusual Occurrences’, and not only defined the day’s play but quite possibly the match, too.
At stumps, Foakes was unbeaten on 83 and his seventh-wicket stand of 131 with Rikki Clarke – which stood at one run when Foakes was reprieved – had helped MCC to a first innings lead.
With Clarke contributing 56, MCC had reached 282-6 in reply to Yorkshire’s 275 when Mallender and Millns took the teams off for bad light 20 minutes before the scheduled close.
Considering that the Sheikh Zayed Stadium floodlights were on full beam and that there is barely more than one man and his camel present for what is effectively a glorified friendly, it was not a day that reflected radiantly on those who make up and implement the rules.
At least the umpires were bold enough to overturn Foakes’s dismissal, for which the laws of cricket make full provision.
Law 27.9 states: “An umpire may alter his decision provided that such alteration is made promptly. This apart, an umpire’s decision, once made, is final.”
Yorkshire, who had no complaints about Foakes’s reprieve, are certainly involved in a battle in the desert.
After an unremarkable if not uncompetitive batting performance, with only Gary Ballance and Will Rhodes posting significant scores, the champions have been made to work hard with the ball.
With the second new ball still in its infancy, and with MCC’s advantage by no means decisive, the game would seem intriguingly poised.
Yorkshire started the day impressively to reduce their opponents to 14-2 inside nine overs.
Tim Bresnan persuaded Nick Browne to flick one up to Rhodes at square-leg, and Patterson had nightwatchman James Harris held at short cover by Jack Leaning.
By lunch, the scoreboard had a much healthier look from MCC’s perspective as captain Ian Bell and Rory Burns helped their team to 85-2.
That included 14 runs from the first over bowled by left-arm spinner Karl Carver, who was then launched for a straight six by Bell in a statement of intent at the start of the afternoon session.
But just when it seemed that Burns and Bell were not for budging, Yorkshire showed their battling qualities by turning the game with three quick wickets.
Bresnan had Burns caught behind for 51, made from 98 balls with eight fours and a six, and Carver responded well to the earlier punishment by having Bell taken at mid-on by Patterson.
Bell failed to emulate Ballance’s achievement on day one in scoring a hundred as he pursues his own ambitions of regaining a Test place, the Warwickshire man having to be content with 44 from 73 balls with seven fours and a six.
When Bresnan pinned Samit Patel lbw, the Yorkshireman had his 449th first-class wicket and MCC were 114-5. That became 151-6 when Patterson had Tom Westley brilliantly caught by wicketkeeper Andrew Hodd, diving one-handed to his left, from what was effectively a genuine leg-glance.
But then came Foakes’s reprieve, which would have left MCC 152-7, as the game underwent another transformation.
Foakes and Clarke were initially circumspect – only 13 runs came in the final 10 overs before tea, at which point Clarke had managed only one run from 34 balls.
But runs came a little too freely for Yorkshire’s taste after the interval, with the seventh-wicket pair adding 118 from 26.1 overs in the final session, and early breakthroughs are needed today.