Ashes 2013: DRS best left with players not umpires - Alec Stewart

 

Second Test: England v Australia

  • Venue: Lord's, London
  • Date: 18-22 July
  • Start time: 11:00 BST

Coverage: Ball-by-ball Test Match Special commentary on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra, BBC Radio 4 Long Wave and via the BBC iPlayer Radio app, BBC Sport website & BBC Sport app. Live text commentary on BBC Sport website, app & mobile devices

The thrilling first Ashes Test at Trent Bridge proved once again that Test cricket is by far the best form of the game.

England need to improve - Stewart

All five days were full of drama, with moments of high-quality cricket and sudden shifts in momentum interspersed with controversies over umpiring decisions.

Anyone who questioned my opinion that this Australia team would battle hard against England may want to reflect on the first five days of the series.

I still expect England to win the Ashes with something to spare, but Australia will not just lie down and allow themselves to be walked over. It simply isn't in their DNA to do so.

The obvious highlight for England was the bowling of man-of-the-match James Anderson, who took five wickets in each innings, but I also hope Ian Bell has finally banished the perception that he only scores easy runs, because without his 18th Test century England would have been in deep trouble.

Trent Bridge reviews

  • Day 2: Australia debutant Ashton Agar had the benefit of the doubt from third umpire Marais Erasmus when he looked to have been stumped for six, and went on to make 98. Erasmus later overturned a 'not out' lbw decision against England's Jonathan Trott when HotSpot technology was unavailable
  • Day 3: England's Stuart Broad stood his ground when he edged to slip, but Australia had already used all of their reviews
  • Day 4: Australia opener Shane Watson was given out lbw and failed to overturn it on review. With the ball appearing to just clip leg stump, the on-field decision remained. Captain Michael Clarke was given out caught behind off a faint edge, reviewed it, but a small HotSpot mark meant he was out
  • Day 5: The wicket that decided the Test came after England reviewed a caught behind appeal against Brad Haddin - and HotSpot again showed a faint edge
  • The Trott and Broad incidents were later ruled to have been "uncorrected errors" by the ICC

After a match littered with contentious moments, it was hardly surprising that England would require a review to overturn an umpire's decision and finally claim the decisive wicket of Brad Haddin on Sunday morning.

In the aftermath to a Test that also featured debatable dismissals involving Jonathan Trott, Ashton Agar, Stuart Broad and Michael Clarke, a lot has been written and said about the relative merits of the Decision Review System (DRS) in its current form.

Haddin himself echoed the comments of former umpire Daryl Harper in stating that he would prefer reviews to be taken out of the hands of players and given over solely to the umpires. This would allow the on-field officials to check their decision with the television official before delivering their final verdict.

My worry, however, is that too much time would be taken out of the game and the skill of umpiring would amount to counting six balls for the over.

I played in the Champions Trophy in Sri Lanka in 2002 when the International Cricket Council trialled a system which enabled umpires to review lbw decisions and disputed catches. This simply resulted in almost every decision being sent to the third umpire, creating long delays while replays were assessed.

Boycott's reviews

Geoffrey Boycott

"When bowlers got lbw decisions against me and it was missing by four inches and the umpire gave me out, nobody said, 'Oh dear Geoffrey, come back and have another knock'. The Aussies told me to get off, with a few other expletives."

When the players decide to review a decision, it adds to the drama of the match. The crowd are left in suspense while the batsman waits to learn his fate, replays on the big screens start to offer clues as to the outcome, and there is always a big reaction when the umpire either upholds or overrules his original verdict.

If you had a system where umpires could check with technology before making a decision, you would dilute what has become an extra bit of theatre within the spectacle of the game itself.

I would favour a more subtle change to the current system that would allow teams to keep the review if they lose out due to an "umpire's call", the term used when the on-field umpire's original decision stands because the TV analysis is within established margins of error.

By that rationale, if an umpire gives a batsman out lbw, but Hawk-Eye reveals the closest of calls with the ball striking the outside of leg stump, the batsman would still be out but his team would not lose a review.

Likewise, a fielding team would not be penalised for reviewing a not out decision when the verdict is an umpire's call.

DRS: Player reviews

  • 3.3 (h) If despite the available technology, the third umpire is unable to answer with a high degree of confidence a particular question posed by the on-field umpire, then he should report that the replays are 'inconclusive'. The third umpire should not give answers conveying likelihoods or probabilities.
  • 3.3 (j) In circumstances where the television technology (all or parts thereof) is not available to the third umpire or fails for whatever reason, the third umpire shall advise the on-field umpire of this fact but still provide any relevant factual information that may be ascertained from the available television replays and other technology.
  • 3.3 (k) The on-field umpire must then make his decision based on those factual questions that were answered by the third umpire, any other factual information offered by the third umpire and his recollection and opinion of the original incident.

*from Appendix 2 of ICC's Test Match Playing Conditions

At the moment, it feels like a double whammy when not only does a decision go against you, but you also lose a review in the process.

One thing that the first Test showed is that how you use the DRS is now a make-or-break part of international cricket and captaincy.

Australia wrongly reviewed seven decisions over the course of the Test match, meaning they were powerless to overturn umpire Aleem Dar's not out verdict when Broad was caught at slip off Agar, and were left with no remaining reviews going into Sunday's finale.

Meanwhile, England were far more cautious over DRS, only using it if they believed there had been a serious error.

Captain Alastair Cook has learnt from his predecessor Andrew Strauss - who used the system better than any other captain - that you need to keep a cool head and not let emotion or adrenalin influence your thinking when deciding whether or not to send a decision to the third umpire.

Umpiring is the hardest job in cricket. Like players they make mistakes on the field of play.

DRS is ensuring that more correct decisions are made more of the time, and that surely can only be a good thing for cricket.

The system is not 100% perfect, but what in life is?