Two incidents this year of a no-ball being wrongly called and denying a bowler a wicket in a Test match were behind the ICC's decision to trial handing the process over to the third umpire. Adrian Griffith, the ICC's senior manager for umpires and referees, said that the ICC Cricket Committee had subsequently asked for the issue to be looked at and suggested it could be the next step in making the third umpire a specialist position.
In Wellington, where Doug Bracewell bowled Adam Voges, who was on 7 at the time and made 239, then at Lord's, where Nuwan Pradeep did the same to Alex Hales, an erroneous call of "no-ball" by the standing umpire prevented the legitimate fall of a wicket - the latter sparking a protest from the visitors' dressing room. It is to remove such occurrences from the game that during England's ODI series with Pakistan over the next fortnight a system using fixed cameras and an electronic signal sent to the on-field umpires will be assessed by the ICC.
Informal tests of how the technology would work have been carried out during the English summer and it will now be put into action in live match situations, to assess the effect on the third umpire's workload and to address any unforeseen issues before taking the proposals forward.
"The cricket committee this year said, we want to look at something to assist the umpires with calling no-balls, because we've had the two incidences where no-balls were called and a wicket has fallen - and you can't reverse it," Griffith told ESPNcricinfo. "The cricket committee has said we want to look at something and this is what we've put forward to look at. And we'll trial it and go back with our findings.
"In the games that have been played in England, with Sri Lanka and now Pakistan, we've been looking at systems to see how it would work, we've had our third umpire sit there and try it out. So we got some feedback on that and we got the sense, yes, it could work. But unless we put it in a live game we really wouldn't know what it can do, what the limitations are. So first we check the technology and now we put it in a real, live trial."
Marais Erasmus and Simon Fry will be the two men taking turns in the TV umpire's chair during the forthcoming series and getting to grips with the system. They will see a live feed of each delivery, followed 1.5 seconds later by a shot of the front foot landing; if after consulting replays it is determined a no-ball has been bowled, the third umpire will send a signal to a "pager watch", similar to the kind used in football's goal-line technology to tell a referee if the ball has crossed the line.
With the third umpire also having to oversee the DRS and help adjudicate on a variety of other issues including run-outs, stumpings and whether a catch has carried, sometimes led by the view of the on-field umpires, Griffith said there was an increasing likelihood that the position would become a distinct one. "We've been thinking about that anyway, we've been looking at the feasibility and taking it towards specialist umpire anyway," he said. "This may change the third umpire but we were always heading in that direction."
Along with how the new system affects the third umpire's job, Griffith and his team will be looking at whether the delay in calling no-balls has an impact on the game itself. Both teams have been told that the on-field umpires will not be calling no-balls themselves and are happy to see how the experiment goes. Slowing the game down is a potential side effect, although it could also help save time by cutting out the process of checking for the no-ball after a dismissal.
"We want to see what sort of timings it is, the flow of the game, because we don't want to affect the game adversely," Griffith said. "So those are the things we're looking at, the flow of the game, what extra work, what limitations does it put on the third umpire, if any, what the teams think about it, how it affects the broadcast… To understand if what we're trying to do is fit for purpose."
From here, after the five ODIs in England and Wales, Griffith will collect feedback from all those involved in the trial and then present the findings to the ICC's cricket committee, which will look at whether it could be rolled out in all international competition.
Asked whether he thought the system would be beneficial, Griffith said: "Yes, from what we have seen. In game, there will be things thrown at you that you probably didn't think of, or hadn't gone through, or different situations present themselves. But from what we've seen, to get to this stage, we're happy that the technology works and it is worthwhile to go forwards."