Test cricket gets taste of VAR controversy to leave England vexed


England spinner Jack Leach claimed Test cricket had experienced its own “VAR” moment after being involved in two controversial umpiring decisions on day one of the second Test against India.

Leach thought he had centurion Rohit Sharma stumped and Ajinkya Rahane caught at short-leg during his spell in the evening session at Chennai, but saw both appeals waved away as India made 300 for six.

Ben Foakes’ sharp glovework went unrewarded when third umpire Anil Chaudhary made an unusually swift decision in Rohit’s favour, despite no obvious sign that the batsman had anything behind the line.

While that was at least a tight call, there was a clear error in reprieving Rahane after he was caught by Ollie Pope via pad and glove. England used a DRS referral to contest Nitin Menon’s ‘not out’ verdict, but were perplexed to see Chaudhary uphold it without having viewed the relevant footage.

Root indulged in an impromptu game of charades as he attempted to demonstrate what England were hoping to check, but there was an apparent breakdown in communication as play resumed without the necessary frame being studied.

As with Rohit (161) before him, Rahane was dismissed almost immediately afterwards, but match referee Javagal Srinath acknowledged the failure by reinstating England’s lost review.

“It’s a bit like VAR today, still controversial even though you’ve got the video there,” said Leach, in reference to football’s own flawed relationship with technology.

“There’s nothing I can do. At the time I was a little bit angry, but getting a wicket the next over makes it a little bit easier and it’s not cost us too much.”

Shedding some light on the Rahane incident, Leach appeared to confirm that England’s specific requests went unheeded.

“Out there we were trying to get them to roll it through because we felt it (the contact) had come after. They checked for lbw, which we knew wasn’t out,” he said.

“They said they were checking it, and then the LBW came up and we were saying, ‘No, no, no, check the other one’ and that was it. I got the impression that they hadn’t checked it.

“That’s all right, it’s obviously a mistake and these things happen.”

As for the less clear-cut stumping chance, which would have given Foakes a reward for his flawless work up to the stumps, Leach added: “Watching it from behind I thought it might get given, but from side on was hard to tell.

“Ben didn’t say it was definitely out, he wasn’t sure, but when we saw it we were hopeful.”

England will know India’s total is already a tough one to match on a pitch that is already offering big turn, with a promise of more to come as the loose surface breaks apart.

That is mostly down to Rohit’s wonderful innings, which defied the tricky conditions as he hit 18 fours and two sixes. Each one was roared on its way by 9,000 Indian fans – the first to return to a cricket stadium in the country since the initial coronavirus lockdown.

The reaction was somewhat different when the returning Moeen Ali bowled home captain Virat Kohli for nought with big turner in the morning session.

“The ground went silent, that was nice to do out here,” said Leach.

“It’s my first experience of an Indian crowd and I’ve never heard noise like it when he came to the middle; it went very quiet when he got out. It’s great to see Moeen do that, it was a world-class delivery and it’s good to see Mo back.”