Billy Bowden is to return to elite-level umpiring during the Ashes after being drafted in for the upcoming series in Australia. Bowden was dropped from the ICC's Elite Panel of umpires in June but has been announced as one of the on-field umpires for the third Test in Perth and the TV umpire in Melbourne.
Umpiring decisions had been a source of controversy during the Ashes series in England, particularly with regard to the officials' use of the Decision Review System. The fact that only four of the 12-man Elite Panel are not English or Australian put further strain on the four neutral umpires involved: Aleem Dar, Kumar Dharmasena, Marais Erasmus and Tony Hill.
Hill, Bowden's fellow New Zealander, will be employed only in the third umpire's chair in Australia, which the ICC said was a move aimed at introducing more consistency in the application of the DRS.
"We felt that we needed to spread the appointments across five umpires for the five-Test series, rather than just the four that were used in the UK," the ICC's general manager of cricket operations, Geoff Allardice, said. "Billy Bowden is the most experienced umpire on the International Panel, and understands what is needed for the umpiring team to perform well in high-profile Test matches.
"Appointing Tony Hill as TV umpire in three of the five matches is recognition that the role is becoming increasingly important in a DRS series. Having the same person in the chair more often should translate into more consistent decisions being made."
A number of decision during the previous Ashes became flashpoints, with particular doubt cast over the reliability of the Hot Spot technology used as part of the DRS. Allardice met with the management of both teams between the third and fourth Tests to discuss flaws in the system, with the dismissals of Jonathan Trott at Lord's and Usman Khawaja at Old Trafford subjected to particular external scrutiny.
Precise details of the DRS set-up to be used in Australia have yet to be confirmed. England travelled Down Under believing that Hot Spot would not be utilised in the series but talks have reportedly resumed between the host broadcaster, Channel Nine, and BBG Sports, the company which provides the technology, with the potential for Real Time Snicko - a more complex procedure for detecting edges - to be used in conjunction with thermal imaging.
Ashes 2013-14 umpires
Brisbane - Dar, Dharmasena; Erasmus (TV umpire)
Adelaide - Erasmus, Dharmasena; Hill
Perth - Erasmus, Bowden; Hill
Melbourne - Dar, Dharmasena; Bowden
Sydney - Dar, Erasmus; Hill