England's nine-run loss at the 2014 World Twenty20 at the hands of New Zealand on Saturday didn't come without controversy, and team captain Stuart Broad has questioned the umpires' decision making in the wake of the match.
As reported by ESPNcricinfo.com's Alan Gardner, Broad didn't agree with the timing of the call, rather than the call itself. With a thunderstorm approaching, officials allowed the match to continue past the five-over mark, enabling New Zealand to take the win on the Duckworth-Lewis method.
After the match, Broad claimed his players could "feel aggrieved" at the final result and took a shot at the officiating, per Gardner:
To be as polite as I possibly can be I think it was distinctly average decision-making keeping us on after the first lightning strike at the start of the fifth over, keeping us on throughout that. That over has obviously given us a loss.
I asked the umpires for a bit of clarity on the decision-making at the end of the game and they said they didn't see the lightening and didn't think it was a threat. You can guarantee from our team we felt like it was a threat and with a batsman pulling away from a delivery after 4.2 overs I think the batsman saw it as well.
At the end of the day it's a game of cricket so I wouldn't be putting the crowd and players' safety under threat.
As touching as Broad's concern for the safety of the crowd may be, the bowler's main gripe was obviously with the result of the decision. At the time of the first lightning strikes, New Zealand were not yet ahead on D/L, and there had not been enough balls bowled for the method to come into effect.
Peter Miller thought the officials should have called it right there:
Probably should be going off with that lightening shouldn't they?— Peter Miller (@TheCricketGeek) March 22, 2014
The batsman in question, All Blacks skipper Brendon McCullum, did in fact pull away from a flash, like Broad stated. And it was McCullum who'd hit the final six that would put New Zealand over the mark and give his team the win.
Two balls later, the rain would force officials to suspend the match and hand the win to New Zealand.
Broad makes a good point when talking about safety concerns, as the decision to continue the match in a lightning storm would be an irresponsible one under any circumstances. But there's a far simpler reason Broad is right to disagree with the officials.
No one can say with any certainty how players will react to an approaching storm. Some might be affected slightly, some might not be affected at all. Some might completely freeze and lose all ability to function (as I would, after witnessing someone get struck by lightning a few years back).
Even though it was only for a couple of balls, you could easily make the case the threat of lightning may have given some players an unfair competitive advantage. And you wouldn't be wrong. McCullum seemed just fine when he took the second ball after his scare and nailed it for six.
Would England have won this match if it hadn't been for the umpires' decision? We'll never know. New Zealand looked to be in great shape, but that in no way is a guarantee for victory.
The D/L method was introduced for these kind of situations, but one quick look around Twitter will show you people from all over the world aren't too keen on deciding the shorter T20 matches using the controversial method:
T20 too short a game for D/L method.— #ForeverCricCrazy (@CricCrazyNIKS) March 22, 2014
Applying the D/L method designed for a 50 over a side game to a 20 over a side game is so obviously stupid. #stupidrule— midhatullah sherwani (@gibberish007) March 22, 2014
Using the D/L method to determine a winner is fine, but in T20 cricket, the decision will always be a controversial one. On this occasion, the wiser decision would have been to halt play at the first sign of trouble.
After all, the WT20 is a biannual tournament, and fans were just robbed of a match that looked like it had the making of a fantastic chase by the All Blacks.
Instead, England will now have three more games to fight their way back into contention for the knockout stages, and if the team is unsuccessful, players and fans will keep wondering whether the result would have been any different if the officials had called the game when they needed to.