Clarke dismisses Cook and Bell story

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Matt Prior, Ian Bell & Michael Clarke

Michael Clarke, right, revealed: "I don't think Ian Bell is a cheat at all" after the in-form England batsman, centre, successfully contested being given caught behind off Shane Watson on 67

Australia captain Michael Clarke has rejected any suggestion of ill feeling towards Alastair Cook or Ian Bell after both were beset by moments of controversy on their way to the hundreds which put England within sight of Ashes history.

Cook's 189 took his series tally to 766 - Wally Hammond is the only Englishman to have made more in an Ashes campaign - and Bell's 115 is his first century against Australia, something he has craved throughout his career.

Their knocks put England, who are on 488 for seven - a lead of 208, in control of the final Test at the SCG with two days to go in a match they need only draw to win the Ashes outright Down Under for the first time in 24 years.

Yet Cook and Bell's survival, on 99 and 67 respectively when video technology was required to rule on contentious catches, meant claims and denials of cheating unfairly deflected attention from two outstanding performances.

Cook stood his ground when it was unclear whether Phil Hughes had gathered a catch cleanly at short-leg off Michael Beer, and replays satisfied the umpires he was right to do so.

In Bell's case, he called for DRS evidence after being given out caught behind by Aleem Dar off Shane Watson - a decision which was overturned when HotSpot failed to provide compelling evidence of an inside edge.

'Snicko', acknowledged as a less robust - and slower - scientific simulation, suggested too late that there might have been an edge after all.

It fell to stand-in captain Clarke to respond at close of play to the suggestion by former England all-rounder Ian Botham, in his guise as a broadcast commentator, that Hughes had cheated by claiming the catch off Cook.

Alastair Cook, Paul Collingwood & Australia

Alastair Cook, left, waits on 99 while Phil Hughes' claim for a catch is viewed by the TV umpire. He was given not out and later said: "To be fair he said straightaway 'I wasn't sure'."

"I can guarantee one thing - Phillip Hughes is not a cheat, that's for sure," said Clarke. "He's a wonderful young guy.

"The end result was spot on. Hughesy wasn't sure; [wicketkeeper Brad] Haddin wasn't sure; we made it clear to the umpires; the umpires referred the catch, checked it.

"I haven't seen the replay, but it must have come up clear that the ball bounced - so it was the right result.

"That's a bit harsh for Ian to say that about Phillip - he's not that sort of guy."

Bell followed Cook to his hundred by mid-evening, but his milestone was greeted by Australian boos as well as English cheers in the crowd - an unfortunate reaction, emanating from those convinced he knew he had edged behind an hour earlier.

Clarke was not among them.

"I don't think Ian Bell is a cheat at all," he added. "We thought there was an inside edge; we appealed that; it was referred. Technology says Ian didn't hit the ball."

Cook gave composed versions of his and Bell's close calls, absolving all of blame and broadly in praise of the technology available.

Of his own incident, he recalled: "It was very close - and to be fair to Phil Hughes, he said straightaway 'I wasn't sure'.

"Obviously I was going to hang around on 99 - you have to be dragged off - so they went upstairs, and I think the right decision was made.

"If Belly had honestly thought he'd nicked it, I can't see him standing - because then you look quite foolish when you've nicked it and 'referred' it.

Aleem Dar & Michael Clarke

Umpire Aleem Dar explains the decision over Bell to Clarke, who soon conceded: "Sometimes you can't (tell if you've hit it)"

"I don't think any players are trying to bluff technology; you could end up on your face quite quickly."

Bell told a similar tale.

Asked if he had hit the ball, he said: "I don't know. That's why I used the review.

"Matt Prior was pretty confident I didn't hit it. That's why the system's there.

"I wasn't 100 per cent sure that I had or hadn't. There possibly was a noise, but I didn't feel anything on the bat."

That is 'fair dinkum', according to Clarke.

"Sometimes you can't (tell if you've hit it), and I would find it very hard to believe anybody would refer a decision if they hit it," he agreed.

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