Australia v England, 5th Test, Sydney, 3rd day January 5, 2011

Clarke defends Hughes over claimed catch

Michael Clarke has defended Phillip Hughes against Ian Botham's accusation of cheating and also cleared Ian Bell for not walking to a ball he was later shown to edge. Hughes was unsure whether he caught Alastair Cook at short leg, momentarily celebrating the dismissal before asking whether it had carried.

Cook, who was on 99, stood his ground and stayed when the replays showed the ball bouncing in front of Hughes. Botham was quick to criticise Hughes while commentating on Sky Sports. "Terrible," he said. "Cheating. How much do you want it to bounce into your hands? He knows he hasn't caught it."

Clarke, Australia's captain, said Botham's reaction was "a bit harsh". "I can guarantee one thing, Phillip Hughes is not a cheat, that's for sure," he said. "He's a wonderful young guy. The end result was spot-on. Hughesy wasn't sure, Brad Haddin wasn't sure, we made it clear to the umpires, the umpires referred the catch, checked it."

Cook thought the call was "very close". "To be fair to Phil Hughes he said straightaway, 'I wasn't sure'. Obviously I was going to hang around on 99, you've got to be dragged off. They went upstairs and I think the right decision was made."

Clarke said he hadn't seen the replay for either the Cook or Bell decisions, but had no problem with the use of technology, even though it's not perfect. "It's the same for both teams and I actually said that out there to Bell," Clarke said. "I said I do think, especially, Hotspot is inconsistent, but it's the same for both teams. I'm sure there's been plenty of cases when we've been batting and the same thing's happened, so it's just about accepting the decision and getting on with it."

Bell was 67 when he was given out caught behind by Aleem Dar, taking a relatively long time to decide on referring the decision. Hotspot didn't show a mark on numerous replays so the third umpire Tony Hill overturned the ruling. A few minutes later Snicko showed an edge, supporting Dar's original judgment.

The local crowd booed Bell when he reached his century, his first against Australia, and again when he was dismissed by Mitchell Johnson. Clarke felt Shane Watson deserved the original wicket, but didn't believe Bell had done anything wrong by not walking off.

"I don't think Ian Bell is a cheat at all," Clarke said. "We thought there was an inside edge, we appealed that, it was referred. Technology says with the result that Ian didn't hit the ball." Clarke said he would find it hard to believe any batsman would refer a caught decision if he knew he'd nicked it.

Cook was at the other end to Bell. "It's a weird one because Michael Clarke had one at Brisbane where we were convinced and Snicko said he might have hit it," Cook said. "Belly said he wasn't sure, he didn't feel it, and Hotspot didn't show. Is Snicko totally right, no-one really knows?"

Michael Hussey was the only Australian who was seen to applaud both Cook and Bell when they reached their centuries, although Clarke had a different view. "I guarantee I clapped both their hundreds, and Cook's 150," he said. "I'm certain the rest of the team did. A lot of the guys said congratulations at tea, when Cook had a hundred."

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo