Cricket: Third man to sit in judgement for Ashes: Extra umpire to officiate in remainder of Test series after trial runs prove successful

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The Independent Online
CHRIS BALDERSTONE will create history at Lord's tomorrow when he becomes the first umpire to sit - rather than stand - in judgement during a Test in England. After weeks of deliberation and three domestic trial runs, a third umpire making decisions from the stand after studying television replays will be in place for the rest of the Ashes series.

A similar system has worked successfully in both South Africa and New Zealand. However, the Test and County Cricket Board's version is different in two key respects. Firstly, the trio will make contact via radios, with the men in the middle giving the final decision; elsewhere in the world, batsmen have learned their fate by seeing a red or green light. Secondly, the third man will be able to intervene if 'he can clearly see something that those in the middle may not themselves have seen'.

The extra official can provide assistance only with run-out, stumping and hit-wicket decisions. David Shepherd and Mervyn Kitchen will indicate to the crowd that they are calling for Balderstone's help by making the sign of a square with both hands. Then, after studying replays, Balderstone will relay his verdict by radio. During a Benson and Hedges Cup game last week the process took about two minutes.

The real innovation, however, is allowing the third umpire to make the first move and the TCCB admits that this could lead to 'suspension of a decision already made'. An obvious example would be a batsman given run-out and then reprieved because the third umpire had spotted the wicket being broken unfairly.

Robin Smith, who was dismissed twice by the Australian leg-spinner Shane Warne during the Old Trafford Test defeat, had two lengthy net sessions at Lord's yesterday, but looked far from confident facing an Indian leg-spinner specially drafted in for the occasion by the England manager, Keith Fletcher. Sandeep Joshi, who is playing league cricket for Hayes this summer, comprehensively beat Smith several times.

However, Fletcher said: 'Robin improved with spin in India and I think he will be able to get runs against Warne this summer. He'll get stuck in against him and we all know if the chips are down when the seamers are on, Robin is the one. He's got tremendous guts.

'We are not underestimating Warne, but the pitch at Old Trafford did respond to spin. The one at Lord's could be totally different - and he might get nought for 100.'

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