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Ashes: Jonathan Agnew column

Fifth Ashes Test: Australia 280 v England 488-7 (stumps, day three)
Venue: Sydney Cricket Ground Resumes: 2300 GMT Coverage: Live on Test Match Special (from 2245 GMT) on BBC 5 live sports extra, Radio 4 LW & online; TMS highlights online (UK only) and day's review on the TMS podcast; live text on BBC Sport website; live on Sky Sports 1; highlights on ITV4
Match scorecard

Australia's players go into a huddle following a referral
Bell's reaction when he was given out did not instantly indicate doubt in his mind

By Jonathan Agnew
BBC cricket correspondent in Sydney

I can't see any other outcome other than England winning the fifth Ashes Test and the series following another dominant day with the bat in Sydney.

It's not a question of if but when - it could even happen on day four depending on how long England decide to bat on Thursday.

While Ian Bell stroked superlative off drives for his 12th career Test century, his innings was tainted by yet more controversy caused by the Decision Review System when, on 67, he nicked a catch to wicketkeeper Brad Haddin off Shane Watson.

Those of you who regularly read my columns know my views about the system - and for those of you who don't, I am not a fan of it and its implementation at all.

The trouble is that people now have entrenched views about the system - some people think it's brilliant and the answer to eliminating poor umpire decisions while the critics, like me, say it creating more doubt and controversy, the very elements it is supposed to eradicate.

My view is that the International Cricket Council has a panel of specialist full-time umpires who are the best in the world, who should have 100% faith and conviction in every decision they make.

Unfortunately Aleem Dar, a brilliant umpire, was persuaded to overturn a correct decision because the technology proved inconclusive.

If you watch a lot of cricket, you get to know the reaction of players when they are out - and I think everyone knew Bell was out

For those of you who ask why "Snicko", the technology which detects the noise made by outside edges, was not used by third umpire Tony Hill, it's because it is not instantaneous.

It requires up to seven minutes to process, too long for the ebb and flow of a Test match. However, its results show that "hot spot" is not the panacea for detecting outside edges.

It's the second time in this series that "hot spot" has proved inconclusive - remember Michael Clarke on day three of the first Test? You could argue Bell's reprieve balances out Clarke's fortune at the Gabba, but it goes deeper than that.

I think the players sense there is an inherent flaw in "hot spot" - we've seen it's not 100% accurate - and will do what they can to exploit that.

The ICC's implementation of the system is made the more baffling because it is not being used in the enthralling series between South Africa and India right now.

Apparently, the Indian players are not keen on the system. If you are going to implement such an important development, then it should be used consistently and uniformly.

What didn't help Bell's cause was his reaction after he was given out by umpire Dar.


He wandered down the pitch, had a chat with Matt Prior before signalling the "T" some 10 seconds or so later.

If he knew he didn't hit the ball, he would have instantly made the signal - like Alastair Cook did during his 148 in Adelaide when he was given out following a deflection off his shoulder.

If you watch a lot of cricket, you get to know the reaction of players when they are out - and I think everyone knew Bell was out.

But you can't blame Bell in all of this - he did what any other batsman would do in his situation.

The error compounded a miserable day in the field for Australia stand-in Michael Clarke.

He really showed his inexperience by constantly chopping and changing his bowlers around and using the wrong end - the Randwick End, as I mentioned in Tuesday's column - with his quicker bowlers.

It also showed Ricky Ponting's critics that changing the captain is not the sole answer to Australia's problems.

I thought Michael Beer bowled well in what is only his eighth first-class match, I like his attitude. However, the selection of Steven Smith continues to baffle.

Ian Bell drives against Steven Smith
Smith has offered very little with either bat or ball in this series

After he was moved down the batting order from six to seven because he was out of his depth, he didn't bowl his leg-breaks until the 102nd over.

The only reason I can think why he was held back for so long was because Clarke wanted to keep control and not give away easy runs, which really doesn't say much about his captain's faith in the young leg-spinner.

As for Alastair Cook, what more can you say? He has never played as well in his life.

It has been a phenomenal display of concentration and application of skill. That really is his game, although Australia have not bowled particularly well to him.

And to think his place was in serious doubt in last summer's series against Pakistan after going eight innings without a score above 29.

There had even been talk of moving Jonathan Trott to open alongside Andrew Strauss with Eoin Morgan slotting into the middle order at the start of the tour following Cook's two failures against Western Australia.

But ever since then, after a century against South Australia, Cook has never looked back and has shown what a wonderful player he is.

Jonathan Agnew was taking to BBC Sport's Pranav Soneji

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see also
Cook and Bell make Aussies suffer
05 Jan 11 |  England
Cook glad to end 'lonely' summer
05 Jan 11 |  England
Fifth Ashes Test day three photos
04 Jan 11 |  England
Wednesday's Ashes gossip column
05 Jan 11 |  Cricket
Cook builds England reply at SCG
04 Jan 11 |  England
England on top in rain-hit Sydney
03 Jan 11 |  England
Live cricket on the BBC
26 Oct 11 |  Cricket
England in Australia 2010-11
08 Oct 09 |  Cricket

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