England vs New Zealand Cricket world cup final: Did ‘cricketing sense’ prevail?

Contentious: Ben Stokes gestures an apology as the ball sped away to the fence, deflecting from his bat. Experts are of the view that since the batsmen hadn’t crossed each other on a second run, it should have been only five runs instead of six.   | Photo Credit: AP

In Sunday’s Cricket World Cup final, England’s Ben Stokes hit the fourth ball of Trent Boult’s final over to deep midwicket. New Zealand’s Martin Guptill fielded the ball and threw it to the striker’s end, where Stokes was returning for a second run. As Stokes dived to make his ground, the throw hit his outstretched bat and the ball was deflected away to the boundary. The umpires awarded England six runs — two for the shot and four overthrows — and Stokes was back on strike for the next ball.

Under the laws of cricket, the English side should have been awarded five runs, not six, and Stokes should have been at the non-striker’s end when the next ball was bowled. Veteran umpire Simon Taufel termed the decision to award England six runs, a move on which there has been much debate over the last two days, a “clear mistake”. After all, it occurred in the last over of the World Cup final, which ended in a tie.

According to the ‘Laws of Cricket’, runs and boundaries are two distinct types of scoring. Runs (Law 18) are based on an action by the batsman. To complete a run, the two batsmen must cross each other and reach the opposite end. Boundaries (Law 19) are based on where (and how) the ball goes. A boundary is scored when the ball crosses the boundary line. This distinction is the first of two crucial points to understanding why that decision in the final was wrong.

The ‘dead ball law’

Each delivery begins when the bowler starts his run-up and ends when the ball goes dead.

The circumstances under which a delivery is considered complete are specified under the ‘dead ball law’ (Law 20). When the ball is grounded outside the boundary, the ball is ‘dead’. This means that on the given delivery, no further runs or dismissals may be attempted. Let’s say a batsman hits a cover drive and the ball begins rolling towards the boundary rope. The batsmen run two. If the ball crosses the line, it is dead — a boundary is declared and the batsman gets four. If the ball gets fielded, the batsman gets two.

The ball is presumed dead once the ball has “finally settled” with the wicketkeeper or bowler. The play is evaluated based on how it ends. If the ball reaches the boundary, the team gets four runs, and not four plus the two which the batsmen ran. Whatever the batsmen ran between the moment the ball was hit and the moment the ball crossed the boundary is set aside.

An overthrow (Law 19.8) is logically identical. If the overthrow goes for a boundary, all action by the batsmen between the “instant of the throw” and the moment it crosses the boundary is set aside and a boundary is awarded. Additionally, the runs completed prior to the “instant of the throw” are also awarded.

The batsmen didn’t cross

Video evidence shows that Stokes and Adil Rashid had completed one run and turned for the second when Guptill made the throw. Crucially, the “instant of the throw” was before the two batsmen crossed. Had the throw been made after the two batsman crossed, the correct award would have been six runs. Since they didn’t cross, the correct award should have been one-plus-four runs. Further, Rashid should have taken the strike the next ball.

It must be noted that this is a very difficult thing for the two on-field umpires to judge, especially when the throw is made from the boundary. It would help if the TV umpire could intervene. But under the terms of the TV umpire’s remit, such an intervention is not currently permitted unless it is requested from the field of play.

One widely held misconception is on the deflection off Stokes’s bat. Under the Laws, such an accidental deflection is of no significance except when it hits the extra helmets behind the wicketkeeper (and if the ball hits the SpiderCam). After any other deflection, ball remains in play. If Stokes had been judged to have deliberately made contact with the throw (he didn’t), he would have been given out for ‘Obstructing the Field’.

The Laws of Cricket are unambiguous. But they have to be understood as a system. Absent such an understanding, one law can appear to contradict another. ‘Cricketing sense’ comes from the system of laws and not from any law in particular.

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Printable version | Apr 13, 2021 3:35:04 PM |

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