Tribunal turfs out report, clearing the way for Merrivale batsman to play in WDCA semi-final

DEFENDING premier Merrivale will have the services of batsman Matthew Wilkinson for its finals campaign after a charge of breaching the spirit of cricket was hit for six by an independent tribunal last night.

The ruling frees Wilkinson to play in Saturday’s semi-final, a grand final rematch with Dennington.

Merrivale successfully argued the process of notifying the club about the report was not followed.

The independent panel of Robert Anderson, Richard Ridgwell and Terry O’Keeffe, chairman, said there was too much ambiguity around the rule and it was not possible for the case to continue.

Wilkinson was charged with breaching the spirit of cricket after alleged excessive and overzealous sledging of Woodford skipper John Houston on the opening day of their final round match on March 1.

But Merrivale president Simon Fleming, acting as advocate for Wilkinson, said umpire John Atwood failed to follow the reporting process correctly.

He said that Wilkinson was charged under MCC laws and the procedure for reporting a player, which he said was very clear, was not followed.

Fleming argued that under law 42.18, the reporting process required the umpire to immediately inform the second umpire of his intent to report. Both umpires are to inform the captain and the captain to take action.

The umpires are then to inform of the gravity of the report to the player and then inform a higher authority.

“That simply did not happen,” Fleming told the panel.

Fleming also argued that the Warrnambool and District Cricket Association bylaws stated the umpire must notify the player, club captain or other official at the end of the match that a player was to be reported.

“The umpires had plenty of opportunity to inform our captain, Michael Walsh, he intended to report Matthew,” he said.

But Atwood said he was following a directive from the WDCA board that it was up to the captain to specifically ask if any player had been reported.

Umpire advocate Nick Frampton confirmed that was the directive of the board, but the rule had not been  rewritten to clearly state it in black and white.

“That bylaw is written exactly the same way as in the Cricket Victoria guidelines and that is how they stipulate the reporting procedure,” he said.

But Fleming said Merrivale’s interpretation of the rule was that it was up to the umpire, not the captain, as per the written version, and the club had not been informed of the directive.

Frampton said it had been communicated at a briefing at the start of the 2012-13 season, but he wasn’t sure if it had been reiterated at the start of this season.

After a short deliberation, O’Keeffe said the panel had accepted the majority of Merrivale’s argument and that the hearing would not proceed.

“We won’t be proceeding due to the obscurity around the rules and the processes followed,” he said.

Fleming said it was a good result, but he would have liked to clear Wilkinson’s name.

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