Cricket: Don’t like a DRS decision? Don’t blame the 3rd Umpire!

I have written a bit recently about various interpretations of the laws of cricket as well as changes I would like seen made to said laws. As part of my rereading of the laws for the first time since I had a crack at becoming an umpire nearly a decade ago, I have read for the first time the Playing Conditions as they relate to the Decision Review System (DRS). For those interested, you should check out Appendix 2 to the ICC's Standard Playing Conditions for Test Matches.

Now there has been much angst and, dare I say it, vitriol directed at the 3rd umpires in the current test series between England and Australia directed at decisions made upon review of decisions using the DRS. Considerable newspaper column inches have been used to lament such decisions and social media timelines have been swamped with responses to such decisions that have trod the length of emotions from mockery right through to hatred. That got me thinking about about the process that the umpires go through in undertaking a DRS review at the request of a player.

Let's take the now infamous Usman Khawaja decision in the 3rd test recently completed at Old Trafford. I think everyone concedes that the on field umpire got the original decision wrong and that the 3rd umpire got the review decision wrong. The question of how this happened has been hot on the lips of many including the Prime Minister, so lets have a look at what the Playing Conditions prescribe should happen upon a review being made.

Clause 3.3 of Appendix 2 of the Standard Playing Conditions is the key and provides (in full) as follows:


a) On receipt of an eligible and timely request for a Player Review, the on-field umpire will make the sign of a television with his hands in the normal way.

b) He will initiate communication with the third umpire by confirming the decision that has been made and that the player has requested a Player Review.

c) The third umpire must then work alone, independent of outside help or comment, other than when consulting the on-field umpire.

d) A two-way consultation process should begin to investigate whether there is anything that the third umpire can see or hear which would indicate that the on-field umpire should change his decision.

e) This consultation should be on points of fact, where possible phrased in a manner leading to yes or no answers. Questions requiring a single answer based on a series of judgements, such as “do you think that was LBW?” are to be avoided.

f) The third umpire shall not withhold any factual information which may help in the decision making process, even if the information is not directly prompted by the on-field umpire’s questions. In particular, in reviewing a dismissal, if the third umpire believes that the batsman may instead be out by any other mode of dismissal, he shall advise the on-field umpire accordingly. The process of consultation described in this paragraph in respect of such other mode of dismissal shall then be conducted as if the batsman has been given not out.

g) The third umpire should initially check whether the delivery is fair under Law 24.5 (‘fair delivery – the feet’) and under Clause 42.4.2(a) (‘full toss passing above waist height’), where appropriate advising the on-field umpire accordingly. See also paragraph 3.10 below.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.

i) Subject to paragraph 3.3 (j) below, specifically when advising on LBW decisions, the requirement for a high degree of confidence should be interpreted as follows:

i) With regard to determining the point of pitching the evidence provided by technology should be regarded as definitive and the Laws as interpreted in clause 3.9 (a) below should be strictly applied.

ii) With regard to the point of impact

– If a ‘not out’ decision is being reviewed, in order to report that the point of impact is between wicket and wicket (i.e. in line with the stumps), the evidence provided by technology should show that the centre of the ball at the moment of interception is in line within an area demarcated by a line drawn down the middle of the outer stumps.

– If an ‘out’ decision is being reviewed, in order to report that the point of impact is not between wicket and wicket (i.e. outside the line of the stumps), the evidence provided by technology should show that no part of the ball at the moment of interception is between wicket and wicket.

iii) With regard to determining whether the ball was likely to have hit the stumps:

– If a ‘not out’ decision is being reviewed, in order to report that the ball is hitting the stumps, the evidence provided by technology should show that the centre of the ball would have hit the stumps within an area demarcated by a line drawn below the lower edge of the bails and down the middle of the outer stumps.

However, where the evidence shows that the ball would have hit the stumps within the demarcated area as set out above but that:

• The point of impact is 300cm or more from the stumps; or

• The point of impact is more than 250cm but less than 300cm from the stumps and the distance between point of pitching and point of impact is less than 40cm, the original decision will stand (i.e. not out).

– If an ‘out’ decision is being reviewed, in order to report that the ball is missing the stumps, the evidence of the technology should show that no part of the ball would have made contact with any part of the stumps or bails.

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.

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.

l) The on-field umpire will reverse his decision if the nature of the supplementary information received from the third umpire leads him to conclude that his original decision was incorrect.

Now: having read all of that I have to say I have renewed appreciation for the process that the umpires have to go through in a short period of time under intense scrutiny.

That said: the biggest thing that I got out of reading the law is this: the 3rd umpire at no point makes a decision. That is right, read sub-clause (k) above again … it is the on-field umpire that makes the decision having asked questions of the 3rd umpire about the decision and received answers. Given the prohibition in sub-clause (e) on questions like “was it out?” it is obvious that the destiny of every DRS referral rests heavily on the questions being asked by the on-field umpire to the 3rd umpire.

If we return to the Khawaja example again: the role of the 3rd umpire in that scenario is to answer the questions posed by the on field umpire and feedback what he is seeing in real time. If the on field umpire wasn't convinced, and we have to assume that he was not, that what he was being told by the 3rd umpire was enough to show that his decision was wrong then he has NO option but to maintain the original decision.

All of this leads to this conclusion: the responsibility for a DRS decision still rests with the on field umpire armed with the extra information the 3rd umpire has provided him. So the next time you are baying for the 3rd umpires blood perhaps you ought shift your ire to the man in the white hat and black trousers on the playing surface because it is he who is actually making the decision!

One response

  1. The laws may state that the on-field umpire makes the decision, but there was the Trott lbw in the second innings at Trent bridge, where Aleem Dar could clearly be seen shaking his head at what he was hearing – because he knew it was not true – before shrugging his shoulders and giving Trott out. It seems the 3rd umpire, rightly or wrongly, is making the decision.

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