KEVIN Pietersen last night defended team-mate Stuart Broad’s decision not to walk on the third evening of the first Ashes Test, describing it as something every cricketer from the village green to the international arena has the right to do.
The dramatic series opener was finely poised with England 232 runs ahead and six wickets down when Broad got a huge edge on an Ashton Agar delivery and was caught at slip by Michael Clarke, via a deflection off Brad Haddin’s pad.
Inexplicably, umpire Aleem Dar ruled the batsman not out and, with Australia having used both of their reviews, Broad opted to stand his ground.
It was a split-second decision that immediately set tongues wagging in television studios and radio booths, not to mention living rooms up and down the country.
But Pietersen, who made 64 as England finished 261 ahead on 326 for six, insists the home dressing room are unmoved by the incident.
“Each and every player who plays for their country, their club side, for their franchise or their county has the opportunity to wait for the decision the umpire makes and you respect the umpire’s decision,” he said in a decidedly frosty appearance before the media.
“We play hard, we play fair and each individual has the responsibility and makes the judgement if he will wait for the umpire’s decision.
“Aleem Dar is a fantastic umpire and he has been rated one of the best umpires in world cricket over the last few years: wait and respect his decision.”
Pietersen refused to debate whether Australia’s decision to use their two allocated reviews on tight lbws contributed to the problem.
“DRS has nothing to do with me. Ask the ICC,” he said.
“You’ve got to use it well. You only get two goes at it.”
Despite a flurry of questions on a subject that drills to the very heart of the ‘spirit of the game’, Pietersen repeatedly attempted to draw attention back to the state of the match.
It is, of course, a hugely important one and appeared to be favouring the hosts when Ian Bell led the players off with a wonderfully measured 95 not out to his name.
His partner Broad, on 47 not out, may have found himself under the spotlight, but Bell’s was the cricketing story of the day as he eased to his top score against Australia in a home Test.
“He was absolutely brilliant,” said Pietersen.
“We know how good Belly is. He is backed incredibly well in our dressing room.
“He has proven why we think he is a fantastic player.
“I think in our dressing room we are worried about the lead we have got. We have 261 and we want to build on that tomorrow.”
In an arch aside, Pietersen was asked about a claim made last month that a radio interview with Darren Gough would be his only one of the summer.
“I do [media] when I score runs,” was his reply.
Australia bowler Peter Siddle did his best to downplay the Broad controversy, insisting the tourists took no issue with it.
“It just happens. It’s the umpires decision and you take it and keep going on,” he said.
“That’s what we did. There wasn’t a big deal made about it. We got on with it and kept working to get the wicket.
“How many people have ever walked? I’m a player, I’m not the one who rights the laws.
“Obviously people are going to be frustrated but it’s hard out there for players and umpires. It’s a long tough day for people out there.
“We have to deal with it and spectators have to understand things like that happen. It’s a long day and tough work for everyone involved. We can’t go blaming anyone.”
The day started sedately as Pietersen and Cook continued to adopt a cautious approach after resuming on 80 for two.
Pietersen moved confidently to 64, but the batsman was then distracted by a spectator moving behind the bowler’s arm and dragged the next ball from James Pattinson on to his stumps as he tried to force it through the off side, ending a third-wicket partnership of 110.
Cook’s four-hour vigil was over shortly after he reached his half-century, the captain edging a top-spinner from Agar to slip where opposing skipper Clarke held a fine one-handed catch high to his left to leave England in trouble on 131 for four.
Following his batting heroics on Thursday it was the 19-year-old sensation’s first Test wicket.
Jonny Bairstow fought for 62 deliveries to make 15 when he edged Agar to Haddin and Matt Prior joined Bell.
Prior struck six crisp fours on his way to rapid 31 off 42 balls but he perished trying to hit another, pulling Siddle to mid-wicket where Ed Cowan leapt to take a sharp catch above his head.
At a glance
MAN OF THE DAY
Ian Bell. It would be cruel if the debate over Stuart Broad’s non-dismissal reduced a wonderful knock by Bell to the footnotes. The Warwickshire man’s 95 not out was his best score in home Tests against Australia and an innings of real substance.
BALL OF THE DAY
Ashton Agar to Jonny Bairstow: Despite his stunning 98 on day two, Agar was brought into the side specifically to turn the ball away from England’s right-handers. With the game finely balanced he did just that, finding Bairstow’s edge and leaving Brad Haddin a simple catch.
SHOT OF THE DAY
A dismissive pull in front of square by Matt Prior off the bowling of Mitchell Starc with the second new ball.
SHOCK OF THE DAY
A tie between Broad’s decision not to walk having been held at slip off a huge edge and umpire Aleem Dar’s decision to give it not out.
STAT OF THE DAY
After sending down 12 overs, Australia all-rounder Shane Watson had conceded just three runs and sent down ten maidens.
TWEET OF THE DAY
“It’s the umpires job to give you out... You can’t blame Broad for not walking, hats off I say if you nick it to 1st slip stand your ground & get given not out !” - Shane Warne gives his take on the day’s most controversial moment.