Nigel Llong, a former Kent player whose previous claim to fame was umpiring in the first Twenty20 international in England when Ricky Ponting's Australia were stunned at the Rose Bowl in 2005, will break new ground at Old Trafford on Thursday – in a van in the car park – when he combines the roles of third umpire and television director.
Llong, who is one of the four English members of the International Cricket Council's elite umpires panel, has been chosen to conduct the trials for a new system of which the game's global governing body has high hopes.
Unlike Kumar Dharmasena, the Sri Lankan who has been appointed third umpire for the third Test – and will therefore be reliant on the replays provided by Sky, the host broadcaster – Llong will have the power to select his own replays from a giant screen offering the full range of options, including Hot Spot and Hawk-Eye.
On this occasion his decisions will carry no authority, and are unlikely to become known beyond the confines of his truck – Dave Richardson, the ICC's chief executive, has stressed that the trials are only "at the drawing board stage".
But the fact that they are being conducted during an Ashes series in which the role of the third umpire has provoked so much discussion and controversy means that the results will be eagerly scrutinised, even though Llong's position does not seem dramatically different from that which currently applies.
Dharmasena, like Marais Erasmus and Tony Hill in the first two Tests, will be able to request replays from Sky and to have them repeated as often as he likes. But the ICC hopes that by taking greater control over the process itself, it may be able to speed it up and also, crucially, remove one of the key planks of Indian resistance to the decision review system, which is that it is vulnerable to broadcasting bias.
There have been other more radical suggestions for reform of DRS during the past few days. Warren Brennan, the inventor of the Hot Spot technology, has been trialling Real Time Snicko – a combination of Hot Spot and the Snickometer, the device to detect edges which cannot currently be used by the third umpire because it takes too long – and hopes it can be introduced before the return Ashes series in Australia.
Meanwhile Richardson confirmed to The Age at the launch of the 2015 World Cup in Melbourne that there has been "a lot of informal discussion" about the possibility of allowing teams additional reviews in long Test innings – a prospect that will horrify those who believe the technology is already being misused and abused.
There is also a growing move behind the scenes for members of the ICC's elite panel to receive more training and practice in their use of all the rapidly developing technology, which could lead to the development of specialist third umpires.
But at this stage there seems no prospect of cricket following the example of the two rugby codes by requiring the third umpire to explain his choice and use of replays, and therefore his decisions, on air.
The ICC has always insisted on the need for the third umpire to operate in a sealed area, accompanied only by the match referee and perhaps the reserve umpire, to prevent any outside influence being exerted – which is why Llong will be out in the car park while Dharmasena and Ranjan Madugalle will be elsewhere at Old Trafford.
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