Australian cricket captain Michael Clarke has been forced to defend teammate Phil Hughes after Sir Ian Botham accused him of cheating.

During the third day of the fifth Ashes Test in Sydney, England opener Alistair Cook nudged a ball to Phil Hughes at short leg. Hughes appeared to claim the catch, before replays indicated the ball bounced first, prompting Botham to criticise the appeal.

“Terrible. Cheating. How much do you want it to bounce into your hands?” Botham said on Sky Sports commentary.

“He (Hughes) knows he hasn’t caught it. There’s no appeal. Someone else says something and then he goes up.”

Clarke, standing in as skipper with Ricky Ponting injured, insisted Hughes was no cheat, and had asked the question about the catch because he was unsure whether the reflex take was fair.

“That’s a bit harsh. I can guarantee one thing, Phillip Hughes is not a cheat, that’s for sure. He’s a wonderful young guy,” Clarke said after play.

“The end result was spot on, Hughesy wasn’t sure, (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.”

However Clarke admitted there may be a negative perception of Hughes’ actions, throwing his hands skywards in appeal, as opposed to other examples of players looking unsure when they come up from a low catch.

“Hughesy certainly wasn’t 100 per cent sure and he made that quite obvious,” Clarke said.

“Hughesy has some sort of feel, Hadds can see the ball, nobody else can really see that. I think the result is spot-on. We got the right answer.”