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You Know You're Mad About Cricket When Hot Spot Causes A Wet Spot

30/11/2015 5:02 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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It's been a Llong time since I shouted at sport.

Watching cricket from my couch, sipping something cold and kissing Husband of the Year goodbye for another year, rarely does a match conspire to boil my blood as it used to when batsmen were wrongly dismissed.

It's the truth of technology. No more cricket injustice. Everything that happens is explained in an instant. Or in five minutes. It depends who you ask.

On Saturday we asked Nigel Llong, third umpire in the Third Test between Australia and New Zealand, after Nathan Lyon swept poorly, edged faintly, and was snared near the stumps.

Or did he?

With the painstaking precision of a deliberating judge, Llong's surname proved appropriate as he sent new satellites into orbit so their images could assist in the decision review. You'll see murder trials brought to swifter conclusions.

The protracted process would have been justified if, at the end of it, the correct decision was made. But, inexplicably, Lyon was spared and I shouted at my telly with such voice I spilled my beer. You know you're passionate about cricket when hot spot causes a wet spot.

nathan lyon drs

Computer says no, according to Nigel Llong.

The technology of Test Cricket has come a long way. The mania began back in 1977 when Daddles the Duck skulked across our screens for the first time, accompanying the brooding batsman on his long walk back to the pavilion. Willow under his wing, tear dripping from his eye, the animated quack was one of the first computer graphics to complement the on-field action and part of Kerry Packer's push to package cricket for TV.

Almost four decades on, a glut of high-tech gadgetry and a smorgasbord of stats provide the DNA of every delivery. Atari-like graphics have been superseded by a sophisticated suite of digital devices that make NASA look like a bunch of kids farting about with a junior science kit.

Snicko, hawk-eye, super slow-mo, hot spot -- sometimes I think I've tuned into CSI Miami rather than the cricket. State-of-the-art simulations and cutting edge cameras offer an autopsy of the action from every conceivable angle while condemning the baffled human umpires to glorified hatstands.

And you thought Greg Chappell played cricket with big brother.

nigel llong

She blinded me with science, sings Nigel Llong.

Over many summers of cricket, additions to the wizardry have included improvements in ball tracking thanks to 230-frames-a-second cameras; a virtual protractor that rises from the pitch like a surfacing submarine to calculate the movement of the ball to the nth degree, and a two-dimensional wagon wheel which frightens my children because it resembles a peeved tarantula.

Sometimes you forget that all you need to play cricket is a bat, a ball and six sticks.

When there's a rain delay nowadays we watch matches from 20 years ago complete with graphics that seem so unsophisticated. In the acid-rain delays of 2050, what could possibly appear unsophisticated about today's graphics?

Perhaps we'll be watching in 4D; perhaps the on-field umpires will have been replaced with Emirates hostesses; perhaps the tattoos on players arms will be animated...

A few years ago, Test Cricket was on death row. Now it's in the pink of health thanks to day-night Tests, a swashbuckling new breed of cricketer raised on a diet of Twenty20, as well as Daddles the Duck and the high-tech brood he hatched.

Unlike free-flowing sports such as soccer and AFL, technology has found a welcome place in cricket because of the staccato nature of the action and the need to plug its gaps. And it has found its place as arbitrator because cricket is not a game of inches but of millimetres -- that hallowed 'coat of varnish' on which games are won and lost, careers kick started and cut short.

When properly utilised, technology is the antidote to incorrect decisions in cricket. No human eye can track that frantic cherry - red, white or pink -- with pinpoint accuracy, even if the umpire has Twenty20 vision.

In Nigel Llong's case it's not his vision that requires scrutiny (although you might see him on an ad for Specsavers sometime soon). It was the bizarre interpretation of the exhaustive evidence presented to him, and the surprising suggestion that the hot spot on Lyon's bat "could have come from anywhere."

Quite the opposite. Four decades of high-tech toys and five minutes of forensic analysis proved that it could in fact have only come from one place.

As Bill Lawry might have said -- that is one of the worst decisions you will ever see. But I'm grateful for it, Nigel Llong. Haven't shouted at the telly in ages. It was like the good old days.

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