The International Cricket Council's cricket committee has voted by the narrowest possible margin (6-5) to give "guarded approval" to a trial use of a system of appeals against a decision by players in the Champions' Trophy in India in October and November.
England coach Duncan Fletcher advocated the system at least three years ago, and it will work this way. Each team will have the right of three appeals per innings.
The fielding captain will ask the umpire to refer a controversial decision and only the batman concerned can make a similar request. If the appeal is upheld and the decision thus reversed, the side concerned still has its three appeals intact.
So, woe betide an aggrieved batsman, bowler or fieldsman whose dissatisfaction at an umpiring decision is not upheld by the third umpire after referring to available technology.
This will not include Hawkeye or the Snickometer, neither of which is anywhere near a foolproof 100 per cent.
The snickometer cannot always spot the difference between the noise of bat on ball or bat hitting pad or the ground.
As for Hawkeye, the computerised calculation of height and angle of flight-track after pitching and hitting pad is often, shall we say, variable. What will be used is the mat superimposed on screens to settle whether the ball has pitched on or outside the wicket-to-wicket lines of the rectangle. There is no margin for error, which is why the third umpire can use it.
Also, the on-field umpires will be wired up to the stump microphone which will be of considerable help with caught behind decisions off faint edges when the bat is wafted at a widish delivery. It is not so helpful when the ball nips back and is apparently deflected between bat and pad or body, or with a possible legside edge off bat or glove.
The cricket committee fear that the experiment of allowing the players to challenge a decision could "damage the fabric of the spirit of the game, and undermine the authority of the on-field umpire."
It is tempting to ask "what spirit?", because the great majority of cricketers are keen to take on the umpire. Bowlers ask for anything; batsmen stand their ground when they know they are out - i.e., Kevin Pietersen for the most obvious return catch to Anil Kumble in the last series, admitting later he was out - and fieldsmen claim any catch they think they can get away with.
No longer, if they are shown to have cheated - and that is precisely what it is when the batsman, bowler or fieldsman knows he is trying to con the umpire. Their defence - and what a rotten claim it is - is to say that the rough decisions even themselves out.
Even if eight wrong decisions in a match are evenly split, it is when they occur that affects a result. You cannot equate the seeing off of a tailender with that of a top batsman.
One of the reasons why the so-called elite umpires' panel had no Englismen on last year (Mark Benson has been elevated recently) was when senior umpire Jack Hampshire stood down because "I suddenly realised the number of cricketers I could trust not to try to cheat me could be numbered on one hand."
That disenchanted statement from an honest man says it all, and that is why the experiment is bound to reduce the aggravation provoked by successful misleading of umpires. The players have always got the umpiring treatment they deserve, so now it is back to them.
Hardly a batsman leaves the crease nowadays without a shake of his head after a marginal lbw decision or a caught behind off a feathered edge. The system has been used in American Football for several years and was recently tried in a professional tennis tournament.
ICC's general manager of Cricket, David Richardson, said: "The aim of the experiment is to increase the number of correct decisions. The umpires already get between 94 and 95 per cent right, and we want to help them towards maximum."
The reservation about the undermining of the on-field umpire is more difficult to dismiss, especially as the trial in the Champions' Trophy will take place in front of excitable capacity crowds in India. Imagine a final between India and Pakistan when an umpire gives the last man out off the last ball of the match, only for an appeal to be upheld. It couldn't happen . . . could it? ..SUPL: