South Africa v Australia, 1st Test, Johannesburg

Smith and Ponting get their heads around referrals

Brydon Coverdale in Johannesburg

February 25, 2009

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The referral system will be used in South Africa for the first time © Getty Images
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Australia and South Africa will be given their first taste of the referral system at the Wanderers on Thursday and both captains said they hoped it would at least eliminate the most obvious umpiring errors. Each team has only two incorrect referrals per innings and Graeme Smith said he was resigned to the fact that the reviews could potentially be used up early.

"I'm sure guys are going to make mistakes," Smith said. "It's a new system, you've just got to trust the guys that are out there. Batters have generally got a good feel of what's going on.

"More than anything else it's more there to get the really bad decision out of the game. That's never a bad thing. It will be interesting to see. I think both teams will probably make one or two mistakes but it's more a nice option to have than anything else."

The captains who have already been part of the trials have given the system mixed reviews. Ricky Ponting is still undecided on whether referrals are good for the game but like Smith he was hopeful that it could remove the poorest calls.

"The thing we've got to remember with it is there are still going to be incorrect decisions made," Ponting said. "It's not something that's going to solve every incorrect decision that an umpire might make through the course of the game. But hopefully it will take out the really obvious bad decisions that are being made which are probably the most frustrating ones for players as well."

One man who was on the wrong end of a series of bad calls during the Australian summer was Michael Hussey, who was given caught off his helmet at the MCG and caught off his pad at the Gabba. Ponting said Hussey had already expressed his interest in the system.

"Mike Hussey joked that he would question the decision every time he was given out," Ponting said. "I had to remind him that he bats at No. 4 and the opportunities to refer anything would be used up by then. You have to trust that your players will do the right thing."

The referral system was first trialled internationally on India's tour of Sri Lanka in July-August last year and was also tried out in the two-Test series between New Zealand and West Indies in December. A modification was introduced for the current series between West Indies and England, with the number of referrals per team in each innings reduced from three to two.

The three officials in charge of the South Africa-Australia series are Steve Bucknor, Billy Bowden and Asad Rauf. Like the players, none of the umpires have been part of the previous trials.

Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo

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Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.
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