Friday, 20 February 2015

Column 2, 2015 – Unintended consequences

Printed in The Cricket Paper, issue 105, Friday February 20, 2015.
[Full text below]

My favourite umpiring conundrums are satisfying because they’re ultimately logical. They work out – there is justice, a correct answer.

The last ball of a match. The batting team are nine down, scores are level. The bowling team need a wicket or a dot, the batting team need one run.

Pretty good, right? This is edge of your seat stuff, even before the batsman is stumped off a wide.

So. What happens? Quite a head scratcher, isn’t it?

The answer is simple chronology. A wide cannot be called until it passes the batsman, and as such might not be called until after the stumping has occurred. But once called it is deemed to have been a wide from the moment of delivery, so the extra run is credited before the wicket and the batting team win.

Simple, eh? Straightforward, logical, understandable.

Now. Let’s turn our attention to the last ball of the England v Australia game last Saturday.

England were nine down. James Taylor was given out LBW by the on-field umpire, which was overturned on review by the third umpire. During the kerfuffle, Taylor and Jimmy Anderson attempted a leg bye and Jimmy was out of his ground when the wicket was broken. After the Taylor decision was reversed, Jimmy was given out, run out.

Now, that is a genuinely dreadful decision. I mean truly, embarrassingly, are-you-seriously-professional-umpires bad. That ball could not have been more dead. It was an ex-ball, nailed to the proverbial perch.

The ICC later issued an acknowledgement (not an apology) that “the game ended incorrectly and an error was made.”

ICC Playing Conditions, Appendix 6, DRS, rule 3.6 a) states “If… an original decision of ‘Out’ is changed to ‘Not Out’, then the ball is still deemed to have become dead when the original decision was made (as per Law 23.1(a)(iii)). The batting side, while benefiting from the reversal of the dismissal, will not benefit from any runs that may subsequently have accrued from the delivery had the on-field umpire originally made a ‘Not Out’ decision.”

Clearly the umpires were wrong. But just as clearly, that DRS rule needs a bit of work, doesn’t it?

Last Saturday, England’s position was hopeless. The umpires not knowing the rules did not alter the result, it just denied Taylor his ton, stranding him on 98.

But let’s imagine for a moment a less hopeless situation. Get back on the edge of your seat.

Nine down. One behind. Last ball. The batsman is struck on the pad and the ball races away for four leg byes – the batting team win! But the bowling side appeal for LBW – it’s given! Then overturned on review! The batsman is not out, but the leg byes don’t count because the ball is retrospectively dead – the bowling side win!

Is that really how we want the World Cup Final decided? I think someone might need to take a long hard look at Appendix 6, rule 3.6 a).

- ends 492 words -

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