Alastair Cook baffled by Hot Spot errors

Alastair Cook who, by his own high standards, is short of runs in the Ashes series, retrieves a ball during net practice yesterday. Picture: PA
Alastair Cook who, by his own high standards, is short of runs in the Ashes series, retrieves a ball during net practice yesterday. Picture: PA
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ALASTAIR Cook remains mystified why Hot Spot has suddenly started to malfunction – but says England and Australia must continue to give the Decision Review System (DRS) the benefit of the doubt.

Cook acknowledges a series of unexplained “strange occurrences”, courtesy of the thermal-imaging technology, have beset the 2013 Ashes.

Contrary to reports that the use of silicone tape on players’ bats is allowing them to fool the system when caught-behind decisions are reviewed, the England captain has no theory as to the cause of the ghosts in the machine this summer. It is all the more baffling that Hot Spot appears to have previously performed consistently to improve umpiring decisions since the advent of DRS five years ago.

As various parties ponder possible explanations, Ashes competitors on both sides have formed an unequivocal and forceful united front that it has nothing to do with silicone or any other form of sharp practice.

Cook said: “In the past it’s worked really well. It’s just one of those things where there have been three or four strange occurrences, where there has been noise but no mark.

“I don’t know why… I’m sure they’re working behind the scenes to try to work out why.”

The England captain is convinced, nonetheless, that calls to immediately forsake Hot Spot, voiced yesterday by one of his predecessors, Michael Vaughan, are wide of the mark.

“In the middle of a series, if something strange happens, if you ban it, then a very dangerous precedent is set for another series,” Cook added. “In the past, it’s worked extremely well to pick up edges.”

Cook was speaking on the eve of the fourth Investec Test at Chester-le-Street, where England can win the Ashes outright for a third successive time, and after a meeting with International Cricket Council specialist Geoff Allardice to try to allay any DRS concerns.

“We were trying to clear up a few issues both sides are having with DRS… and it was a good outcome at the end,” he added. “They [the ICC] have held their hands up and said ‘some mistakes have been made with it’.”

Shortly afterwards, an ICC statement confirmed Hot Spot will be retained as part of the DRS process for the final two Ashes Tests.

Cook hopes the suggestions made by him and England’s management staff in the meeting called at the behest of the ICC, following the succession of DRS controversies this summer, will be taken on board – yet he appears still to be convinced of that. “It was a good forum to do that. Whether they’ll listen or not, we’ll have to wait and see,” he added.

As for those reports about the silicone loophole, from Channel 9 in Australia – which resulted on Wednesday in a denial via Twitter from Kevin Pietersen and the England and Wales Cricket Board’s demand for an apology and explanation from the Australian broadcaster – Cook said: “Both sides have laughed at it,” he said. “We’ve been laughing at it in our dressing room, how absurd it is, because it’s so blatantly not true.

“It’s not great when you get called a cheat as a side, and you’ve been accused of something you haven’t done.”

He is confident Pietersen will not be put off his game once the action starts today. “He wanted to make sure he cleared his name pretty quickly,” he added. “He’s entitled to do that with something that stupid.”

Cook is also right behind the ECB’s decision to unleash its legal team on Channel 9. “It’s a bit out of my league in terms of what type of apology,” he said. “I think an apology is due, because it’s such a blatant fabrication.”

On the field, Cook’s most pressing objective will be to improve on two half-centuries in six innings so far in the series – by his standards, only a moderate output. “It hasn’t gone quite as well as I would have liked,” he said. “When you convert starts into bigger runs it changes, but that hasn’t happened. I work hard at my game and I’ve scored runs in the past, so I hope it’s just a matter of time.”

All available evidence suggests that much is a given. But whether Hot Spot can improve on its current average is perhaps a little less certain.