Dom Bess has criticised the umpires’ decision to keep players on the field despite poor light on the third evening of England’s third Test against Pakistan, suggesting it had been “seriously dangerous” for tailenders to be facing fast bowlers in gloomy conditions.
England dropped two slip catches late in Pakistan’s first innings, with Rory Burns and Zak Crawley putting down regulation chances off James Anderson, but Bess suggested that it would be harsh to criticise his team-mates for their drops given how dark it had been. Bess said that he had been unable to see the ball at square leg when Azhar Ali pulled a short ball in his direction, and called for more “common sense” to be used in future.
“It’s no excuse, but it was really dark out there,” Bess said. “I was stood at square leg, and Azhar pulled one off Jofra [Archer] and I did not see it. In all seriousness, if that goes near someone or is hit straight at me, I genuinely don’t know what I’m going to be doing.
“I guess playing in those conditions, we’ve got to be really switched on with it and actually we got to start thinking I think a little bit about the players’ wellbeing. You’ve got [No.] 10 and 11 there having to face up to someone like Jofra as well in those conditions – it is seriously dangerous.
“I think the light meter reading was 430 [lux]. The game before when we came off it was about 700. Obviously we all want to be playing cricket but I think as well there’s got to be a little bit more common sense in terms of players’ wellbeing.
“You take [Mohammad] Abbas, the No. 11 – you don’t want to see them getting hit or anything like that, in terms of it being really dangerous.”
Umpires taking players off for bad light has been a persistent feature of this English summer, with several days’ play abbreviated despite the use of floodlights at both Emirates Old Trafford and the Ageas Bowl. During the weather-affected second Test of this series, which petered out into a draw, England’s captain Joe Root described bad-light stoppages as “an issue that needs to be addressed”, and suggested possible solutions such as the use of a brighter ball, earlier start times (which have been introduced for this Test) and improved floodlights.
Bess said that he did not think that Michael Gough and Richard Illingworth’s decision to keep players on the field was an “over-reaction” following criticism in the media throughout England’s series against West Indies and Pakistan, but called for common sense to be used by umpires and more consideration to be given to players’ wellbeing.
“Obviously we all want to be out there playing cricket, but again there’s got to be a little bit more common sense in terms of when it is too dark,” he said. “I think if you get the meter readings out there, as we walked back on then it was 430 so I think that paints the picture.
“We are trying to get cricket played but from just my perspective on players’ wellbeing, imagine if someone gets hit there and it is really serious. Say the No. 10 or 11 gets hit by Jofra because we are out there – what happens then?
“I guess it’s just calling out for a bit of common sense in terms of when it is too dark, we’ve got to go [off], and when it’s not, we try and play because everyone wants to be out there.”
After going unused in the second Test of the series, Bess bowled 19 overs on the third day, taking 1 for 68 with Fawad Alam his only victim. He said that he was “absolutely loving” the backing England had given him as their frontline spinner, but admitted that he was “learning on the job”.
“It’s just been an amazing summer in terms of being picked as first spinner,” he said. “For me it’s about learning on the job, learning what to do for the side in terms of my role – obviously in the first innings try and contain, and hopefully as the pitch breaks up a little bit more, I’ll come into the game a bit more.
“I love it. I love learning – it’s a great challenge because we’ve played against some great Pakistani batters, and they’re very good against spin so for me it’s challenging myself, seeing where I am at the moment. To be honest, I’m absolutely loving it.”