England v NZ, Super Eights, World Twenty20, Pallekele September 29, 2012

Dead ball or no-ball?

Steven Finn's stump-kicking is a habit he needs to kick. A change to the Laws might help

Apart from his irritating tendency to collide with the stumps in his delivery stride, Steven Finn had a good day. He flogged life from a decent batting surface and his three cheap wickets provided a basis for an England victory that has kept alive their hopes of a semi-final place. His potent pace bowling will encourage England's hopes that beating Sri Lanka in their final match is not beyond them.

But while Finn has a right to revel in his good day, his idiosyncrasy needs to be addressed before it causes an almighty row. The issue that first arose in the Headingley Test against South Africa shows no signs of abating. Instead of kicking the stumps, Finn needs to kick the habit. And, whether or not he kicks the habit, the Law needs to be changed.

Finn's tendency was regarded seriously enough to be brought up at the pre-tournament briefing for coaches and captains during which they were told that any bowler breaking the stumps would first receive a warning and on every further occasion the delivery would be ruled as a dead ball. As it happened the umpires forgot about the warning on this occasion.

Finn collided with the stumps in each of his last three overs. As a dead ball was ruled, New Zealand missed out on a leg-side wide and then a single; on the final occasion, James Franklin drilled the ball through mid-off for four only for the boundary to be removed from the records. To add injury to insult, Finn struck him in the groin with his follow-up delivery. Considering how cricketers find nothing funnier, "kicking the stumps over" had every chance of becoming a euphemism.

But Finn's collisions are not funny, they are serious. Imagine what the outcome would be if Franklin had struck that boundary from the last ball of the match, thought he had won the game for New Zealand, only for dead ball to be ruled, the runs to be scrubbed and Finn to send the batsman's stumps flying with the next delivery.

If batsmen stumble into the stumps in the process of playing a shot, they are given out hit wicket. For a bowler to suffer a no-ball is a far lesser punishment

The solution is staring everybody in the face. It should not be a dead ball, it should be a no-ball. The batsman gets the benefit of the runs accrued and an extra ball as well. If batsmen stumble into the stumps in the process of playing a shot, they are given out hit wicket. For a bowler to suffer a no-ball is a far lesser punishment.

Stuart Broad, England's Twenty20 captain, said: "The best solution to it is for Finny to stop doing it. Today New Zealand were unlucky but it might cost us an important wicket at this stage. But it is also important in a world tournament not to focus so much on that because he is in a nice rhythm and it would be dangerous to make him worry too much about that."

Ross Taylor, New Zealand's captain, was quick to praise Finn's display, but that praise was tempered by his belief that the ICC approach is misguided. He wants cricket to introduce a version of football's advantage law - allow the game to progress as normal unless a batsman is dismissed, in which case dead ball should be called retrospectively.

"For Finn to get two wickets up front put us on the back foot - when the ball was new was probably the easiest time to score," he said. "But I disagree with the ICC rule when he breaks the stumps. It is a rule for one person in particular. Unless a batsman gets out you should just carry on."

Taylor even suggested it cost New Zealand a wicket because Brendon McCullum was so angry with the dead-ball ruling that he got out. If he did, he was unprofessional, but it is a new one to add to the list of batsmen's excuses.

All this should not detract from Finn's excellent display. He has hunted early wickets with aggression throughout the tournament and this time he was quickly rewarded, trapping Martin Guptill lbw with his third ball, fast and full. In his second over, when he reared one past Rob Nicol's defences and over the stumps, there was enough venom in the delivery for it to fly through Craig Kieswetter's gloves and strike him on the nose. McCullum, reportedly full of grievances and seeking to respond in kind, fell in the same over, slicing to third man as he tried to carve Finn over cover.

Broad, a bowling captain with a refreshingly adventurous approach, gave him a third over with the new ball in the hope that he could make further inroads, but Kane Williamson and Nicol both collected boundaries. Instead, his final wicket came in the 17th over, the crucial wicket of Taylor, holing out at deep midwicket.

Danny Briggs, who approaches the crease with the rhythmic grace of a gymnast, is the sort of bowler you imagine would never collide with the stumps. Instead, in his first appearance in the tournament, he collided with Franklin who took 16 from his last over to besmirch his figures, 1 for 36, by the end.

Sunday would have been Briggs' wedding day were it not for his appearance at the World Twenty20. Instead, he joined a reshaped England attack, part of a package that exchanged Tim Bresnan and himself for Samit Patel and Jade Dernbach. His left-arm slows have been employed for the first over twice this month, first against South Africa in a T20I at Edgbaston and now here, the first time a spinner has bowled the first over of the match in any form of cricket for England since Douglas Carr, a legbreak bowler, in 1909.

The story of Carr's only Test is quite remarkable. His experimentation with the googly won him an England call up against Australia at The Oval, his new-fangled trick believed to be the route to victory. He took three wickets in no time but by the time he finished with seven wickets in the match he had conceded 282 runs.

Briggs, a conventional slow left-armer, will be needed at Premadasa if England reach the last four and will find the longer boundaries more to his liking. He is a phlegmatic customer and during his spell spoke only once. Instead of his wedding vows, he exclaimed to himself when Franklin's return drive spat through his hands to the boundary. Nobody was quite sure what he said but it was probably for the best that it was out of hearing of the vicar.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

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