Umpire Marais Erasmus makes a late dead-ball call as Kevin Pietersen backs away

The killer: without an umpire's signal, it's hard to determine when exactly a ball is presumed to be dead by everyone on the field

© Getty Images
41

Analysis

Ambiguity in death

When exactly is a ball dead? Five recent instances that show the laws are unclear and the umpires indecisive

Russell Degnan |

Controversies over dismissals generally fall into two areas. Those in which what happened is disputed but the law is clear, and those where what happened is plain to see but the law is open to interpretation. It is the second that is the more interesting, or at least, the most amenable to a non-partisan discussion.

An outside observer might wonder why laws with a written history dating back 348 years are still open to dispute. On this point they would join a long lineage of writers who queried the same thing. Charles Box's 1868 book, The Theory and Practice of Cricket contains an illuminating account of the development and interpretation of the laws up to that time. He was scathing of their ambiguities, stating: "The whole code of laws might be reconstructed to advantage, as nowadays there is very much in cricket for which the laws afford neither direction nor control."

The laws pertaining to dead balls are perversely fine examples of this problem. Many recent controversies, in which the nebulous "spirit of cricket" has been cited, are also issues of legal uncertainty. What the framers of the law may have intended has often been insufficiently clear, making it hard to distinguish between a legally permissible dismissal and a dead ball.

****

England v India, Trent Bridge, 2011
Last ball before tea on day three. Eoin Morgan glances it to square leg where Praveen Kumar tries to stop a four. The batsmen run three. Ian Bell, observing the fielder in no hurry, turns for the pavilion. The slips begin to walk off. MS Dhoni moves from behind the stumps to a position about ten metres closer to the fielder to catch the throw. It arrives, 14 seconds after the fielding attempt, and is relayed to Abhinav Mukund, who breaks the stumps.

Much of the discussion focused on what came after: Andy Flower and Andrew Strauss requesting the Indian team, in the tea interval, to recall Bell. If the dismissal attempt was "unfair", however, it was because the ball appeared dead, and that is a matter of the law:

23.1b) The ball shall be considered to be dead when it is clear to the bowler's end umpire that the fielding side and both batsmen at the wicket have ceased to regard it as in play.

This particular clause of law 23 was only introduced in 2000 to resolve a long-standing hole in the dead-ball law. Under previous versions, a ball was only dead if it had been returned to the bowler or wicketkeeper. Several controversial dismissals resulted from this confusion. The opportunistic "run-out while gardening" dismissals of Sammy Jones by WG Grace in 1882 and Rodney Hogg by Javed Miandad in Melbourne in 1979; the handled-the-ball dismissal of Andrew Hilditch in the same Australia-Pakistan series, and the Alvin Kallicharran run-out by Tony Greig that, like Bell's, was overturned after being given out. In each instance, the ball may have been considered dead under the modern law but they would have been open to an unusual degree of interpretation.

As Miracle Max stated in The Princess Bride, "There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive"

In the Greig-Kallicharran run-out, every player bar Greig and the umpire Douglas Sang Hue were turning to leave the field while wicketkeeper Alan Knott dislodged the bails nearly as soon as the ball had hit the ground from the defensive shot of Bernard Julien. Most assumed that the day's play was done, though the umpire had yet to call time. Only one player, Greig, appeared to regard the ball as still alive, and he ran Kallicharran out at the bowler's end. Here, and in the Bell case, an argument could be made that the ball was thought to have been dead by most of the players. Yet as Miracle Max stated in The Princess Bride, "There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive."

This uncertainty has had an effect on the general habits of modern batsmen. They can regularly be seen motioning their wish to leave the crease, even if it is not clear whether they are looking at the umpire to ascertain that the play is dead or to ask the opposition for consent. Nor is it clear whether consent has been given, or is even required when the play is clearly over.

The law makes no provision for ambiguity in death. But it does allow ambiguity in the moral outcome, as while both Bell and Kallicharran were initially given out, they were later reinstated. The reason for the reinstatement in each case was the morally correct application of the spirit of cricket, which supposedly ran counter to the formal application of the law.

Was it unfair of India to have run out Ian Bell for walking out of the crease before tea was called at Trent Bridge in 2011?

Was it unfair of India to have run out Ian Bell for walking out of the crease before tea was called at Trent Bridge in 2011? © Getty Images

Law 23.1b requires only that the umpire perceives that both teams no longer believe the ball to be in play. The ambiguity on how that clarity is arrived at creates a situation where the formal and moral cases run in parallel. Neither the umpires, who asked three times whether the Indian team wished to appeal, nor a majority of the players felt that the Bell dismissal was within the spirit of the game. The reluctance to officiate on the run-out raises the question of why the ball was not deemed dead in the first place.

This too, may have historical roots. In The Willow Wand, Derek Birley traces the willingness to tolerate ambiguity in the law to cricket's upper-class origins. The umpires, as social inferiors to the lords (and later captains), are decision-makers, but the right of appeal rests with the captain. In times of moral uncertainty, most notably after mankading attempts, the umpires question not the decision but the appeal. It is, in many ways, a callow position. To rule a ball dead means taking a stance on the law, one that could be criticised. To procrastinate and rest a moral obligation on the shoulders of the captain is to abrogate the responsibility to others.

****

Sri Lanka v Australia, Colombo, 2016
Nathan Lyon bowls to Dimuth Karunaratne. It pitches short of a length and turns sharply past the bat to Peter Nevill, who waits. Karunaratne's back toe is behind the crease. Two seconds pass. He lifts his foot slightly and Nevill takes the bails off.

A batsman who wanders out of his crease can hardly complain if he is stumped, and few were willing to condemn Nevill. Yet a reading of the first clause of the dead-ball law lends weight to an argument that Karunaratne might have been hard done by.

23.1a) The ball becomes dead when (i) it is finally settled in the hands of the wicket-keeper or of the bowler.

The key ambiguity is over the definition of the term "finally settled". The notes to the law, now contained in law 23.2 are entirely circular, stating that "[w]hether the ball is finally settled or not is a matter for the umpire alone to decide".

An outside observer might wonder why laws with a written history dating back 348 years are still open to dispute

While the wording of many laws has changed substantially since Box critiqued them in 1868, the term "finally settled" has not changed at all. Unsurprisingly, in the era shortly to be owned by a notorious gamesman in WG Grace, the words are designed to curb the excesses of the wicketkeeper. In Box's words:

The ruse frequently adopted by very acute wicket keepers of holding the ball to catch less experienced hitters off his guard, has long been denounced as a contemptible experiment. "Finally settled" is when the wicket keeper has taken the ball, and the batsman is within the limits of the popping crease. It is the duty of the wicket keeper to return the ball immediately."

Box is not unduly influenced by the spirit of cricket but it is clear from his statement that, 150 years ago, the type of stumping Nevill performed was frowned upon, and that the law was designed to prevent it. The ambiguity in its modern meaning raises the question of whether law 23.1a-i should be clarified to explicitly reject waiting for the batsman to step out, or merely removed. If the lack of sympathy for Karunaratne is any indication of prevalent opinion, then the latter is probably the best option.

****

Hong Kong v Oman, Fatullah, 2016
Aamir Kaleem is bowling around the wicket. As his front foot lands and his arm moves above his shoulder, the non-striker, Mark Chapman, is in his crease. Kaleem aborts his action, turns, and throws down the stumps as the umpire begins to signal dead ball.

Not-so-safe hands: Peter Nevill's decision to wait a couple of seconds after collecting the ball to stump Dimuth Karunaratne, in fact, goes against the letter of the law

Not-so-safe hands: Peter Nevill's decision to wait a couple of seconds after collecting the ball to stump Dimuth Karunaratne, in fact, goes against the letter of the law © Getty Images

Even in Box's day the removal of a non-striker attracted controversy. There are at least four moral positions that can be taken:

  • at one extreme is the belief that any mankading falls outside the spirit of cricket;
  • at the other extreme, that any batsman out of his crease should be dismissed;
  • in the middle lie two beliefs: ◦ that a run-out is acceptable, provided the batsman has been warned; ◦ that any run-out is acceptable providing the bowler has not pretended to bowl in order to draw the non-striker out of the crease.

Arguably only the last of these is concerned with gamesmanship. If the bowler is not attempting to draw the non-striker out of his crease, then it is the batsman taking advantage and putting himself at risk. Pretending to bowl while actually trying to run the non-striker out, dates to Box's day. He referred to it as "childish, and utterly unworthy of the noble character of cricket", but it was only recently that it became harder to effect.

42.15 The bowler is permitted, before releasing the ball and provided he has not completed his usual delivery swing, to deliberately attempt to run out the non-striker.

This law has undergone several recent revisions. Until recently the MCC used the term "delivery stride", which was both unambiguous and made it nearly impossible to pretend to bowl. However, in the belief that batsmen were taking undue liberties in their backing up, the ICC changed their playing conditions in 2011 to refer to the "delivery swing" of the bowler, and the MCC code has followed suit. Unfortunately the change has brought plenty of ambiguity.

To rule a ball dead means taking a stance on the law. To procrastinate and rest a moral obligation on the shoulders of the captain is to abrogate the responsibility to others

In the mankad of Chapman it is unclear if Kaleem went through with his delivery swing, as he aborted it somewhere at the level of his shoulder, yet still brought his arm through. In doing so, he again raised the problem of a ball that might be called dead, but which the law is ambiguous to judge on. The ICC, in trying to deprive batsmen of a relatively minuscule amount of time to back up, have created a problem that will only get worse with the rampant liberties being taken by non-strikers.

In many ways the modern laws for running out the non-striker are incongruous. While officially the ball is alive once a bowler begins his run-up, a batsman may not run (42.16), a fielder may not change his position (41.7) or talk (42.4), and the bowler is limited to running out the non-striker until such time as he releases the ball. While earlier versions of the law made no distinction between a run-out attempt of the non-striker and a normal run-out, the modern law is a separate game within the game.

While prevailing opinion is currently opposed to the liberties batsmen are taking, and wishes to construct the law to prevent them, the ICC's changes allow bowlers to try and deceive non-strikers into leaving their crease. An alternative law, which applied a run penalty to a non-striker who left his crease before the ball was released, but didn't allow a run-out would be both more consistent and less controversial.

England v New Zealand, The Oval, 2008
Facing left-armer Ryan Sidebottom, Grant Elliott defends to the off side. The non-striker calls him through, leading Elliott to cross paths with Sidebottom. There is a collision where both are upended. The ball is returned to the bowler's end, with Elliott well out of his ground.

Full frontal: which player can be blamed for wilfully obstructing the other in the case of Ryan Sidebottom's collision with Grant Elliott?

Full frontal: which player can be blamed for wilfully obstructing the other in the case of Ryan Sidebottom's collision with Grant Elliott? © AFP

The modern practice of running for balls played at the feet has significantly increased the likelihood of collisions. What is unclear is who, if anyone, has the right to the zone where the ball ends up.

The batsman?

42.5 it is unfair for any fielder wilfully to attempt, by word or action, to distract or obstruct either batsman after the striker has received the ball.

(a) It is for either one of the umpires to decide whether any distraction or obstruction is wilful or not.

Or the fielders?

37.1 Either batsman is out Obstructing the field if he wilfully attempts to obstruct or distract the fielding side by word or action.

In the Elliott dismissal, the charging bowler was impeded by the batsman and vice-versa; without guidance from the law, the only conclusion - short of applying a five-run penalty and dismissing the batsman - is that a player is not "wilfully" impeding the opposition if running across the path of the ball or attempting to field the ball.

In terms of a strategy for self-preservation, an umpire who lets play run - and lets the players take the blame for encroaching on the spirit of the game - is a wise one

The downside to this interpretation: a player will eventually be seriously injured. In a similar incident in Australia, Ian Chappell remarked that a batsman needed to hold his ground and drop his shoulder if necessary. Yet like many batsmen, Elliott was both mismatched against Sidebottom and outnumbered by the fielders.

Faced with a similar problem, the rules of baseball resolve this issue in favour of the fielder, whose right to the ball overrides the batter's right to occupy the base path. In a sport where runs are rare, the opportunity to take a base is the more significant action, and the fielder's preserve to make the out has precedence. In cricket, runs are common and dismissals are rare, so the opposite ought to apply. Yet, the only deterrent to obstructing and then running out a batsman in the act of fielding the ball is the spirit of cricket - which, as numerous examples demonstrate, barely exists.

Basic instinct: Ben Stokes reacts to a ball thrown in his direction. He was then given out for stopping it, since it wasn't actually going to hit his body

Basic instinct: Ben Stokes reacts to a ball thrown in his direction. He was then given out for stopping it, since it wasn't actually going to hit his body © PA Photos

An alternative interpretation would hold that the ball should have been called dead under another rarely considered or upheld clause:

23.3b (ii) a serious injury to a player or umpire occurs.

The word "serious" is mired in ambiguity. What constitutes a serious injury, and under what circumstances might one occur? Collisions have been known to cause serious injury: both on the field, such as between Steve Waugh and Jason Gillespie; and running (between Mark Waugh and Matthew Elliott). Yet only the former resulted in a dead-ball call, and only well after it was obvious that neither could continue playing. Elliott somehow regained his ground despite a broken leg, but the reality is that a batsman is more likely to be injured and out than injured and protected, even when the injury is caused by the fielding side.

****

England v Australia, Lord's, 2015
Ben Stokes defends down the pitch and hops forward, taking him out of his crease. Mitchell Starc fields in his follow-through and throws. Stokes pivots for the crease, instinctively raises his hand to ward off the potential threat and collapses away from the ball. The throw is at stump height, hitting Stokes' hand.

A batsman can almost always avoid the ball, but they also need to be able to recover their ground, and that potentially puts them in the path of throws likely to injure them

Obstructing the field is an old law given a new twist in the frenetic modern game. The emphasis on the law is on distraction and interference: largely to prevent batsmen from stopping a fielder from making a high catch. Stokes' hand prevented a probable run-out, which is a prima facie case for dismissal. However, the obstruction law includes a sub-clause rooted in the spirit of cricket.

37.1-i a hand not holding the bat, unless this is in order to avoid injury.

By trying to return to the crease and protect himself from an 80mph throw from around 15 yards, Stokes found himself in a dilemma. Having instinctively raised his hand to deflect the ball, there was no instinctive way for him to withdraw it when (or even if) he realised it was missing his body.

The law states Stokes could deflect a ball that would cause injury, but what is meant by the word "injury"? Any ball thrown into the immediate vicinity of the batsman has some possibility of injury, though most will not cause harm. Stokes was right to be concerned about the ball, and wrong that it was going to injure him.

Similarly, a batsman can almost always avoid the ball, but they also need to be able to recover their ground, and that potentially puts them in the path of throws likely to injure them.

There is an argument to be made, on safety grounds, that bowlers should not be able to attempt run-outs if the batsman on strike has not attempted a run; that the ball, once retrieved by the bowler, be regarded as "settled" and therefore dead. As the laws related to fair play stand, there is no protection from malicious or intimidatory throws.

The laws relating to obstruction and handling the ball are a mess of sub-clauses both rare and ambiguous, more likely to inflame the spirit than defend it. It is unclear what the framers intended and how they should be read. Unsurprising then that, when faced with a possible application, the spirit is willing but the law is weak, and umpires choose not to apply ambiguous clauses.

Birley's comments on ambiguity appear well founded, as does his admonishment of the expectation that players will police their own actions instead of the umpires. In terms of a strategy for self-preservation, an umpire who lets play run - and lets the players take the blame for encroaching on the spirit of the game - is a wise one. When Mark Waugh was reprieved after hitting his wicket in a tense draw against South Africa in 1997-98 - one of the few cases where an umpire exercised a clause in a batsman's favour - it ended with the South African captain, Hansie Cronje, putting a stump through the door of the umpires' change room. Less ambiguous laws would offer fewer opportunities to appeal to umpire and spirit.

Russell Degnan writes on cricket governance, finance, statistics and Associate cricket at Idle Summers, and hosts the Associate and Affiliate cricket podcast

 

RELATED ARTICLES

 

LOGIN TO POST YOUR COMMENTS

  • POSTED BY MartinBriggs on | December 10, 2016, 19:54 GMT

    Not sure where the author, Russell Degnan, has got the "until recently" and "the MCC code has followed suit" from in the following paragraph in his article. The wording certainly hasn't changed from delivery stride in the MCC laws. ........"This law has undergone several recent revisions. Until recently the MCC used the term "delivery stride", which was both unambiguous and made it nearly impossible to pretend to bowl. However, in the belief that batsmen were taking undue liberties in their backing up, the ICC changed their playing conditions in 2011 to refer to the "delivery swing" of the bowler, and the MCC code has followed suit. Unfortunately the change has brought plenty of ambiguity".....

  • POSTED BY Martin Briggs on | December 9, 2016, 18:26 GMT

    @ROWAYTON - Quite right too!...hope it taught him a lesson....

  • POSTED BY Rowayton on | December 9, 2016, 10:59 GMT

    One for the umpires' meeting night, talking about hit wicket. I found a record in an old publication of a batsman being given out, in club cricket, for hitting his wicket when he wasn't preparing to receive the ball, playing the ball or setting off for his first run. How can that be right, Mr Briggs? The answer of course is that he was given out obstructing the field - he threw his bat at the stumps to knock the bails off so he could make his ground before the fielding side could 'break the wicket'.

  • POSTED BY DrJez on | December 8, 2016, 16:26 GMT

    @Martin Briggs. Thank you - I stand corrected. And of course, now I think about the Harper/Gooch and others it is obvious. The claim by the umpire - that he was supposedly running - was actually the only defence he had against a different law.

  • POSTED BY Martin Briggs on | December 8, 2016, 7:41 GMT

    @BENNETT MENDES - The Mark Waugh case is probably the trickiest Hit Wicket to work out. There is nothing to be done about it now apart from debate it. The only real element for an umpire to consider in a HW is time, the batsman's state of mind, reaction, level of attention, accident or wilfulness etc being largely irrelevant. The umpire has to decide at what point an action in "preparing to receive" or "in receiving" a delivery ends. Thereafter the law outlines what happens after the batsman sets off for a run, which doesn't apply in the Waugh case. "Preparing to receive" as an action has quite obviously ended, thus the umpire has only to decide on the immediacy of "in receiving" and may conclude that this ends immediately once Waugh has made contact with the ball - i.e. he has "received" it and not when the ball is on its way towards the fielder. We're talking about extremely fine time-frameshere. It's no surprise that it splits opinion.

  • POSTED BY Bennett Mendes on | December 7, 2016, 20:32 GMT

    Love the debate on Mark Waugh. Watched the tape. Every criteria listed in 35.1 shown fits a verdict of ' OUT '. The bails are off before the fielder has the ball, so the ball is still in play. The wicket is broken. By equipment. Action taken by him. In receiving a delivery. Playing at the ball. Benaud talks about 30 seconds, but the balls fall off after only about 1.3 seconds. Benaud talks about deliberately hitting the wicket, but Mark shows surprise at the bails falling off (watch his head turn) - besides why would an experienced batsman deliberately knock the bails off ? And there is no mention of deliberate or accidental knocking off the bails in the laws. Why would there be ?

  • POSTED BY Martin Briggs on | December 7, 2016, 18:38 GMT

    The Hit Wicket law causes more confusion than most, as a number of people believe it commences much earlier and more particularly, ends much later in the process than is the case. It has a very limited time-frame and this is explained in the law as well as explanations allow. The Mark Waugh instance is not 100% clear-cut but his 'playing at' the ball appeared to have ceased. In all these dead ball instances, it is only the umpires' judgement that matters, nothing more. It's very notable that Marais Erasmus has been involved in a couple, notably the Bell and Pietersen cases and was exemplary in his conduct and management of the incidents. He's mentioned very little when umpires are talked about but I feel he has been the best in the world by some distance for the last 2-3 years. He rarely makes an obvious error of judgement, if at all, and must have a very low percentage of DRS overturns. He is understated, inconspicuous and an absolutely exceptional Elite Umpire

  • POSTED BY Michael Jones on | December 7, 2016, 17:08 GMT

    @PHILIPKAYE: yes, the clip is out there, and I have seen it. The Laws of Cricket are also out there; Benaud had clearly read them, I've read them, and if you think Waugh should have been out I suspect you haven't. Look up law 35.1, which lists the circumstances in which a batsman can be out hit wicket; the action with which Waugh broke the wicket doesn't fit into any of them, therefore he wasn't out. Whether he was "rattled" or "not in control" is completely irrelevant.

  • POSTED BY Martin Briggs on | December 7, 2016, 16:12 GMT

    @SINCLAIR - Yes, it is a judgement call by the umpires, as are all cases of this kind. Your 'standing still' scenario is a tough one and a grey area and would have to be judged on the event. A 'non-action' is opening a can of worms! I would suggest that if he is standing still and the ball is almost falling on top of him or in his immediate vicinity, the fielder or wicket-keeper may well "ease" him out of the way by whatever means appropriate and escape penalty. The guarding his own wicket may also be seen as an anomaly or otherwise but is only applicable if it prevents a catch being taken, not in the normal course of play.

  • POSTED BY Sinclair Lamb on | December 7, 2016, 15:23 GMT

    @MARTINBRIGGS My scenario envisages the batsman being well aware of where the ball is. My point I think is that he cannot escape the charge of wilfulness on the ground that he did nothing i.e. didn't move, if his non-action impedes the fielder. The Law mentions obstruction by 'word or action'. I would suggest that 'action' should be interpreted to include standing still. Interestingly the Laws also say he is out even if the obstruction is caused by him lawfully guarding his wicket, which would seem to indicate that it can be accidental and still wilful. However, as you say, it is really just a judgement call for the umpires.

  • POSTED BY Martin Briggs on | December 7, 2016, 9:54 GMT

    @MOHIT_SURYAWANSHI - Correct. The law is quite clear on it and there have been a number precedents, including by close fielders and indeed Roger Harper's famous and breath-taking run out of Graham Gooch as a bowler in the 1987 MCC Bicentenary match.

  • POSTED BY Mohit_Suryawanshi on | December 7, 2016, 7:37 GMT

    @MARTIN BRIGGS- I concur. Regardless whether the batsman tries to take a run or not, he can be run out at any time when the ball is LIVE and in play. This commences once the bowler delivers the ball and ends only when the ball is dead (which,as this article points out, is very ambiguous). There have been many instances of batsmen moving out of the crease while playing their strokes, and being run out by alert fielders. In these instances, there were no intentions of taking a run, only forward momentum propelling them out.

  • POSTED BY philipkaye on | December 7, 2016, 6:32 GMT

    Mark Waugh was most definitely out. He was clearly not in control and obviously rattled by the incident- Benaud was great but in this case completely deluded.

    Judge for yourself as this clip is available out there,

  • POSTED BY absalombeeps on | December 6, 2016, 23:09 GMT

    The Stokes incident is really about bowlers pretending to throw the ball to the wicketkeeper when they are really just being brutish and attempting to intimidate the striker. It is foolish and unnecessary. Can you imagine a fast bowler of old doing it? No, nor can I.

  • POSTED BY Martin Briggs on | December 6, 2016, 20:05 GMT

    @DRJEZ ON - You mention "that a batsman can only be out if he's attempting a run", which is incorrect I'm afraid. A batsman can be run out irrespective of whether he's attempting a run or not and the law is clear on this (Law 38. 1 (b)). Ask Shane Thomson, who was run out by silly point in a Test match whilst maintaining a perfect forward defensive pose, slightly out of his crease, or anyone run out by short leg or any other close fielder whilst momentarily out of their crease and not attempting a run. The umpire in the Jones incident evidently didn't know the law relating to a batsman leaving the crease under the misapprehension that he is out (Law 27.7).

  • POSTED BY VisBal on | December 6, 2016, 14:52 GMT

    @HRolf: What you describe is the difference between an umpire and a referee, at least this is how it was drilled into me several moons ago. The referee is a strict arbiter of the rules, while the umpire exists to ensure that the game is played within the rules and Spirit. In a sense, the umpire's role is ensuring that the temas have an amicable game (even if some rules are subordinated to Spirit in the process).

  • POSTED BY VisBal on | December 6, 2016, 14:47 GMT

    @BigFrank: "When is the ball dead? When the umpire says so - no ambiguity there. "

    Except the umpire does not call "Ball" like he calls "Over" or "Stumps". Even these are not always called verbally. The ambiguity comes from the "understanding" of when the ball is dead, and gamesmanship generally means that we can have differing understandings depending on how the events play out.

  • POSTED BY dejfrith on | December 6, 2016, 12:08 GMT

    The Stokes incident was badly handled by the umpires, especially the one "upstairs". It was obvious that the batsman reacted instinctively as he perceived a ferocious throw coming his way. It was normal behaviour to try to protect himself. It was anything but a deliberate attempt to intercept the throw. That decision was almost as appalling as the one that ended Dean Jones's innings years earlier. Pity there's such a serious dearth of reliable umpires.

  • POSTED BY DrJez on | December 6, 2016, 10:01 GMT

    @Vic Nicholas. That Jones incident was just an appalling error by the umpire. The law is clear. A run out can only happen if the batsman is attempting a run, and Jones was not. The only way that the umpire could defend the decision was to argue Jones was running. Clearly his pride prevented him from admitting his mistake. I seem to recall the coach even running on to the field with the laws of cricket to show the umpire, who remained unmoved. A good example of when modern systems (DRS, neutral umps etc) would work better.

  • POSTED BY DrJez on | December 6, 2016, 9:53 GMT

    @MaskedMagpie. No. This "reaction not intention" applies to the obstructing-the-field dismissal. Did he deliberately block the throw?

  • POSTED BY Martin Briggs on | December 6, 2016, 9:52 GMT

    @BISCUITSA - M_JONES ON is correct in that the Hit Wicket law has a very strict and limited time-frame and it could be said that Mark Waugh's 'dismissal' did not in effect meet it. It ends after receiving or playing at the ball or setting off for a run *immediately* (in the umpire's judgement) thereafter and no later. For example, if the batsman hit a ball to fielder, called 'wait' and hit his wicket in setting off for a run, that would be not out as the time-frame has elapsed. Similarly, it had done with Mark Waugh. The fact that the ball was 'in play' is incidental to an extent, he had already played the ball and that event had passed, all be it a very short time beforehand.

  • POSTED BY Martin Briggs on | December 6, 2016, 9:35 GMT

    @SINCLAIRLAMB - this is a question of interpretation to an extent and the umpires have to use their judgement. In your scenario, the batsman hitting the ball up in the air has a perfect right to stand still, particularly if he is not completely aware of where the ball actually is. The same principle (informally called the "lamppost principle") is the case when a batsman is taking a run, the bowler having a right to a follow-through and to complete his bowling action without having to physically and intentionally move out of the way of a running batsman. The batsman has to change his line accordingly, not the bowler change his location. The batsman in your scenario and the bowler in mine cannot, however, move in a manner and direction that impedes the opponent unfairly.

  • POSTED BY Sinclair Lamb on | December 6, 2016, 8:00 GMT

    With regard to obstructing the field, I was always taught that a batsman had to move out of the way to allow a fielder to make the catch. If he hits it straight up and just stands there, impeding the fielder, to me that's wilful. Recent interpretation seems to indicate that he actually has to move into the fielder's way for it to constitute wilful intent and be therefore given out.

  • POSTED BY Unnikuttan on | December 6, 2016, 6:25 GMT

    in one test Inzamam was run out for obstructing the field. In another test he was given out for handling a throw with his bat

  • POSTED BY Mid-off on | December 6, 2016, 5:48 GMT

    All this argy bargy about ambiguity could be avoided if simple commonsense was applied. If the batsman is not trying to take unfair advantage of a situation, or steal a run, he could be ruled not out. End of story. As in the case of Bell walking out thinking the ball was dead, for the tea break. Or Stokes evading a ball being thrown towards him. In neither case was the batsman trying to take advantage of a situation or steal a run. Surely commonsense dictates that it was NOT OUT?

  • POSTED BY MaskedMagpie on | December 6, 2016, 3:58 GMT

    @DRJEZ - So going by yours and a lot of other peoples opinion of the Stokes incident, he should not have been given out because it was "reaction not intention". So the next time a batsman is bowled a fierce bouncer and reactively fends it away and is caught, shall he be given not out?

  • POSTED BY Vic Nicholas on | December 6, 2016, 3:34 GMT

    I was hoping to see a synopsis here of when the West Indians ran out Dean Jones as he was walking off the field after being bowled, not realizing it was a no ball. Jones was not reinstated and the West Indian umpire later justified has decision by stating "I thought he (Jones) was taking a run". Incredible explanation given that Jones was walking in the direction of the pavillion with his bat tucked under his arm taking his gloves off!

  • POSTED BY M_Jones on | December 5, 2016, 18:38 GMT

    BiscuitSA - with regards to hit wicket, you're asking the wrong question. It's not sufficient that the ball is in play: the action which breaks the wicket has to be part of the act of preparing to play the ball, playing it, following through or setting off on the first run (for instance, the batsman is not out if he runs into the stumps at the end of a subsequent run). In Mark Waugh's case, he had finished playing the ball, it had gone to the fielder and he was just careless about where he was waving his bat afterwards. Richie Benaud argued that it shouldn't have been out, and he was correct. He clearly knew the law better than Lawry, who thought that such a dismissal could occur at any time after the batsman had received the ball.

  • POSTED BY M_Jones on | December 5, 2016, 18:30 GMT

    The problem with the wording "the fielding side and both batsmen at the wicket have ceased to regard it as in play" is that the fielding side consists of 11 individuals. How many of those 11 need to have ceased to regard the ball as in play for it to be considered that the side has done so? All of them? A simple majority? Just the captain? Several of the dismissals mentioned (Dhoni/Bell, Greig/Kallicharran, McCullum/Murali) occurred when some, if not most, of the fielding side clearly thought the ball was dead - it was only the player who had it in his hands who didn't. I'd say if the batsmen and most of the fielders think it's dead, then it should be.

  • POSTED BY Alfers on | December 5, 2016, 18:11 GMT

    @HROLF - Excellent comment. It's been suggested that DRS removes the need for the on field umpires. You remind everyone why that is not the case.

  • POSTED BY BiscuitSA on | December 5, 2016, 15:34 GMT

    You're missing the most gut wrenching one of all. Especially for SA fans. One which even Bill Lawry said was the wrong decision! Shaun Pollock got Mark Waugh out on day 5 of the 3rd test at Adelaide, with Aus up 1-0 in the series, batting out for a draw and a series win. Kallis incidentally scored his maiden ton in the first test at the MCG to survive 4 sessions for a draw. Aus survived the third test 7 wickets down, with Mark Waugh batting 7 hours. However, on day 5 the ball hit him, ballooned to gully (i.e. the ball was still live as it flew to the gully fielder), and in the process he hit his stumps with his bat. NOT OUT, and Aus survived for the draw to win the series. But it was definitely out. It would take us another 11 years to avoid defeat against Aus we finally won the 20087/9 series downunder.

  • POSTED BY DrJez on | December 5, 2016, 14:40 GMT

    @Mad_Hamish. To the ill-informed, Stokes's hand indeed looks very "guilty". Particularly when watched in slow motion. But a quick analysis immediately shows this to be impossible. At 80 mph, from a distance of 15 yards maximum (both mean have advanced down the pitch), there is barely 0.3 seconds to react. That is not enough time to see, to judge, and to act. It is only enough for a single reflex act, and when there is a dangerous object coming your way, this instinctive act is to protect yourself. There is no time then to calculate the actual direction and then initiate a second (corrective) movement. Scientific study has long known that human physiology does not allow it (yes, I am a scientist).

  • POSTED BY DrJez on | December 5, 2016, 13:46 GMT

    The stumping issue should come to a matter of control. A catch is considered complete if the catcher is in control - irrespective of the time the ball was held. Similarly if the batsmen is in control (i.e. not overbalancing or falling over) then the wk should not be allowed to wait.

  • POSTED BY IndianInGlasgow on | December 5, 2016, 13:22 GMT

    Perhaps time has come for umpires to call 'Ball' after each delivery as they call an over or stumps. Given the technology around this could be done in numerous ways. Perhaps the third umpire can press a button on his board, which lights up a red lamp visible to all on the ground. The lamp can go off after 5 secs signalling the beginning of the next delivery. Or perhaps the bails light up in a different colour to indicate this as well.

    Too many rules in cricket are ambiguous and for whatever reasons lot of laws contravene the spirit. Why not ditch the spirit and run the game by the law? It will prevent people gardening without leave and being generally stupid.

  • POSTED BY philipkaye on | December 5, 2016, 13:17 GMT

    Does anybody remember the one day final in South Africa many years ago where Natal's Vincent Van der Bijl ran out Allan Lamb of WP by throwing the stumps down while walking back to his mark, with Lamb relaxing outside his crease. In Natal's chase. Peter Kirsten fielding at cover was thrown the ball by the wicket-keeper and promptly threw down the stumps to run out Paddy Cliff - Natal then folded. Kirsten's comment afterwards "you live by the sword, you die by the sword"

  • POSTED BY Paul Robson on | December 5, 2016, 13:14 GMT

    "the throw from Starc was well wide of Stokes' body" ; it obviously wasn't that wide otherwise he wouldn't have been able to stop it with his hand. If I throw a cricket ball at you at probably about 100mph from about 15 yards, you've got something like a third of a second to react to it.

    Whether anyone can wilfully do anything in 1/3 second except instinctively is seriously debatable. That's really the issue ; the author says Stokes was right to think it might hit him (it's probably the equivalent of a delivery about twice the maximum reachable because it's nearer and it's a throw) but wrong in that it wouldn't have.

    I'm not sure whether it was the right decision or not, if it is, it probably shouldn't be. Any human being would have reacted in the same way.

  • POSTED BY bigfrank on | December 5, 2016, 6:32 GMT

    When is the ball dead? When the umpire says so - no ambiguity there. As for an umpire worried about criticism of any such decision they make - get another job.Making on field decisions is what the umpire is there to do.

  • POSTED BY Hrolf on | December 5, 2016, 5:27 GMT

    This all comes down to good umpiring. If, when two teams are playing, there is always agreement about what happened and what should happen, then there is no role for an umpire. The umpire's primary role is to keep the game going and for it to be played in the right spirit by consistent and fair rulings on all matters of controversy. The rules are guide, both to the umpires and the players, as to what constitutes fair play, but it is ultimately up to the umpires to choose that in any particular situation. How an umpire decides that, how he controls the match, and relays information to players is what defines an umpire. Unfortunately there has been too much emphasis on umpires getting decisions correct with regards edges, catches and LBWs, and it is often stated that DRS undermines the authority of the umpire. This misses the real point and function of an umpire - which is the dealing and management of the human side of the game.

  • POSTED BY vatsap on | December 5, 2016, 4:59 GMT

    The Murali incident against New Zealand has been missed. It was clearly not in the spirit to claim the run out. Dead ball rules are not clear and do test border line cases.

  • POSTED BY Mad_Hamish on | December 5, 2016, 3:38 GMT

    a few comments, 1) Elliott did not have a broken leg. 2) the throw from Starc was well wide of Stokes' body so there was no question of Stokes preventing injury.