Challenging light conditions and a system crash contributed to the unavailability of ball-tracking for an lbw appeal against Jason Holder late on the final day of the Boxing Day Test, the technology operators EagleEye have revealed.
An ageing ball and stark shadows across the MCG were making it difficult for ball-tracking cameras to pick up the ball to a level that satisfied the technology's handlers, causing them to state to the broadcast producer that they could not provide a ball-tracking model of the Holder lbw appeal immediately.
When EagleEye operators then attempted to track the Peter Siddle delivery via Nine's video footage - the secondary option - a system crash meant they were unable to do so in time for the DRS referral, though it was shown later to demonstrate the ball was missing leg stump.
Such eventualities are accounted for in DRS protocols, with the third umpire Ian Gould duly compelled to return to the on-field umpire Marais Erasmus' original decision of not out. Australia did not lose a review as a result of the course of events. Ian Taylor, head of the New Zealand company Animation Research that provides EagleEye for the broadcaster Channel Nine, said the firm took responsibility for the outcome.
"The guys weren't happy with the first data they got because of a lighting issue so they did a re-track from the video. Unfortunately when they did that the system crashed and they lost the video," Taylor told ESPNcricinfo. "Doing the re-track without the video takes much longer.
"They had to let the producer know they weren't happy with what they had and advised him there was no useable track available at the time. That is part of the protocol and in that case 'umpire's call' stands. They did retrieve the track in the end but it was too late to use, but they did put it to air.
"I want to be clear this is our responsibility. We weren't able to track this ball to a satisfactory standard and said so."
Taylor said this was only the third such occasion that EagleEye operators had needed to indicate they were unhappy with the data they were getting, in an association with cricket in Australia that dates back to the 2010-11 Ashes summer. By contrast, Taylor said that the Marlon Samuels lbw in the first innings of the match - considered by many to be out though tracking had the ball clearing the stumps - was not a source of consternation for the company.
"They were happy with it," Taylor said of the operators at the MCG. "Side-on showed he was on his tip toes and he was hit on the top of the pad. They felt happy with that tracking, based on what the side-on cameras showed."
There are ongoing discussions between technology operators and the ICC about how to further improve the system, including the advent of a specialist third umpires rather than the current rotation between on-field and off-field duty. It is believed that this concept is also supported by the umpires themselves, as they find it difficult to make the adjustment from the instincts required in the middle to the data analysis of the television review job.
Taylor is also an advocate for a system of universal DRS training to be undertaken by umpires and technology operators alike, so all are accredited with the same knowledge base and thus have a greater degree of trust in each other. The Holder lbw was discussed between the match referee Chris Broad and officials from both teams following the conclusion of the Test. Australia's coach Darren Lehmann said his team remained staunch supporters of the system.
"You just want them to get it right, that's all, make sure the technology is up to speed," Lehmann said. "Everyone loves it, we're pro it, it's just making sure they get it right. It was missing leg stump, they handled it well from a match referee/ICC point of view, where we didn't lose a review, got that back. Making sure it's working 100% of the time is the key."