India v England, 4th ODI, Mohali January 23, 2013

England need Finn to kick the habit

Steven Finn's habit of knocking the stumps at the non-striker's end as he delivers cost England a vital wicket against India
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An irritation that has plagued England for months flared up once again as Steven Finn's propensity for dislodging the bails in his delivery stride cost his side an important wicket - who knows, perhaps even the series - in the fourth ODI of the series against India.

Finn thought he had dismissed Suresh Raina only to see that the umpire, Steve Davis, had signalled dead ball on the basis of Law 23.4(b)(vi), which states that the batsman should not be dismissed if he has been distracted while preparing to receive a delivery.

It was one of the defining moments of the game. Raina was on 41 at the time and India, with four wickets down, still required another 80 runs to win. He went on to contribute an unbeaten 89 and help India to a five-wicket win which secured a series victory with one game left to play.

England may feel they have been unfortunate. Certainly precedent suggests that umpires will allow Finn one such indiscretion before calling dead ball for the second occurrence in a game, a policy which was introduced during World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka in September.

That was a point that Alastair Cook, a none-too-happy England captain, made to Davis in the immediate aftermath of the incident. England might also have good cause to enquire whether a dead ball would have been called if Raina had hit it for four, or if any other bowler other than Finn had been responsible.

Davis explained that a warning had been issued that Finn would be called immediately, a warning which it later transpired had been issued by Andy Pycroft, the match referee, after the opening ODI in Rajkot. A warning which had previously been presumed to apply to the same match now seemed to have a longer lifespan, a test for cricketers' memories everywhere. This regulation seems to have a life of its own.

Cook still sounded bemused. "There was a little bit of confusion," he said. "Apparently we had been told that because he knocked them over twice in one of the previous games he was a 'serial offender' and that he was going to get called straight away. The umpires were pretty clear that they had told us so I must have been deaf when I was listening to them.

"Do I think it's fair? At the moment, with emotions running quite high, probably not. I know umpires have a tough job but it's obviously frustrating."

It is worth noting that it was Davis who called dead ball in the Headingley Test in August when Finn thought he had Graeme Smith caught in the slip on 6. He went on to score 52. Australia had earlier complained about Finn dislodging the bails during the one-day series against England last June.

In the aftermath of the Smith incident, the MCC, the custodian of the Laws of the game since their formation in 1787, admitted the episode had highlighted a grey area in the Laws and stated that they would review them. At present Law 23.4(b)(iv) states that either umpire should call and signal dead ball when: "The striker is distracted by any noise or movement or in any other way while he is preparing to receive, or receiving a delivery. This shall apply whether the source of the distraction is within the game or outside it. The ball shall not count as one of the over."

The Laws could be clarified. If all such incidents resulted in umpires automatically calling a no-ball it would remove any element of doubt or argument. It would also end the injustice of a batsman being denied a boundary following a bowler's error. No runs can be scored off a dead ball.

From an England perspective there is an even more simple solution: Finn has to stop dislodging the bails in his delivery stride. Just as bowlers have to learn the discipline of not over-stepping or pushing the ball down the leg side, so he has to eradicate the fault from his game.

To do it once or twice might be forgiveable, but to continue to do it in important situations several months after the problem became apparent appears unnecessarily profligate. Finn and England really only have themselves to blame.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • maddy20 on January 26, 2013, 20:51 GMT

    @bobmartin First up its hilarious that you are defending an international cricketer, who cannot get his basics right, despite of being warned many times in the past. One would hope that the English are putting as much effort into fixing his flaw rather than pouncing on the the umpire who makes the decision. Secondly what do you want them to do ? How do you expect the umpire to judge whether the batsman is distracted or not? What if the batsman argues that he was distracted/lost his concentration due to the sound of the knee hitting the stumps(remember there is mic in the stump)? In an era where we have some controversy or the other nearly in every game, we could certainly do with a little less, uncertainity, by means of a fixed rule. If you overstep, no-ball, if you knock the stumps in your delivery stride deadball. Period! if Mr.Finn can't take it, then he can go back to playing FC cricket, where you can have whatever rules you like.

  • Harmony111 on January 26, 2013, 5:10 GMT

    @Lee Gray: That has to be one of the most ridiculous comments ever made here. Firstly the noise the crowd makes is not targeted at the batsman - it is for all the ppl on the ground, including the crowd. As for the bug, batsman often back off at the very instant when a bug comes to his face or in the eyes. I am sure you would have seen it happening plenty of times. Not only this, batsmen also hate it when someone makes any sort of distraction or the slightest of the movement around the sight screen when the bowler is running in or about to deliver. Heck we have seen umpires declaring it a dead ball even if the batsman backed off very late right when the bowler was about to jump into his delivery stride.

    When a bowler is in his delivery stride, that is the moment of reckoning for the batsman - he has to face it as it would be too late to back off.

    If the bowler himself breaks the stumps then he is the guilty on there, not the crowd or the bug - so why should he not pay the price?

  • dummy4fb on January 25, 2013, 19:27 GMT

    on the basis of Law 23.4(b)(vi), which states that the batsman should not be dismissed if he has been distracted while preparing to receive a delivery, then surely thats the case if the crowd are distracting the batsman too or if a bug flies into his eyes at the critical moment and he misses the ball and it uproots tye stumps. This is such a stupid ammendment to the laws it needs to be ousted. Its a mistake from the bowler and professional bowlers should not be doing it I've never seen it in the grass roots game.

  • BULTY on January 25, 2013, 15:01 GMT

    I am a regular watcher of cricket matches telecast live on TV and I very well remember that this was not the first that Finn did it. When he did it on previous occasions, there was the argument that he should be debarred from bowling further in that innings, fair enough for a habitual offender. This is done when a bowler is warned twice for running on to the good length spot of the pitch. The Umpires were right when the ball delivered was called "dead ball" and even if the batsman had hit it for a six, the runs would not be counted as happened when Sehwag hit the ball over the boundary when just one required for victory and just then the umpires called it "no ball" denyhim the six runs and also his century. What do you say for this? It was a deliberate "no ball" bowled by the bowler and he was penalised straight away. I opine that the umpires did the right thing in this case. l

  • Fast_Track_Bully on January 25, 2013, 10:27 GMT

    @UK_Chap. If you are that much old, do not forgot that WI has the better winning rate over some country s just because they played well in 60s and 70s. But check the performances of country s for the last 10years or so. That will give you an idea how good they are.

  • bond4urisonly on January 25, 2013, 10:19 GMT

    You may bowl over the wicket or round the wicket, not through the wicket.

  • Fast_Track_Bully on January 25, 2013, 7:13 GMT

    @KiwiRocker. Funny to see you cannot look beyond the English batsmen given out!Why the double standard? Go thru the commentary section of cricinfo to see ----------------- 5.3 .G Gambhir c †Buttler b Bresnan .He walks back in frustration, as he didn't really get a bat on that. Second umpiring error of the day. ----------------- 31.1 RG Sharma lbw b Finn gets hit on the knee roll and Steve Davis raises his finger. -----------------

    So you are a more expert that cricinfo commentary team?? And FYI, India has an umpire exchange programmes with SA and hence Indian umpires officiate first-class matches in SA too. read this : http://www.espncricinfo.com/india/content/story/361025.html

    this will show your expertise! Do some homework before you comment.

  • simonviller on January 25, 2013, 3:11 GMT

    I hope that MCC doesn't change the rule to suit Finn ,but rather revise it to be called a" no-ball ". If a batsman is given out by disrupting the stumps by whatever means ,in an effort to make a stroke , similarly , a bowler should be called for a no-ball for a disruption of the stumps . Mr Finn has to correct this problem ,or try bowling around the wicket ,but not to expect a rule change because of his actions .

  • ultrasnow on January 24, 2013, 17:56 GMT

    Bowler tall, gangly runs in brushes stumps while in delivery stride, bails fall off, batsman straight drives, bowler gets hand to ball, stumps uprooted at non-strikers' end, non-striker caught outside his crease, umpire rules no-ball, appeal for run-out, non-striker complains that bowler disturbed his concentration as well and that made him forget to ground his bat...........

  • bobmartin on January 24, 2013, 16:37 GMT

    The whole situation is crazy... Finn is not the first bowler to do it and I doubt if he will be the last... So what has changed from when it happened prior to the complaint by Smith in the Eng V SA test..when no-one appeared to be affected and it was never called... The answer is... all that has changed is that the umpires have unilaterally decided that it will be a dead ball irrespective of what the batsman thinks. On what basis do they decide if the batsman was distracted on every occasion... Did the ICC write a new playing regulation and why ? It's only when a wicket is taken and dead ball is called that the furore starts.. But as was shown in the SA test, more balls delivered after Finn had disturbed the bails were dispatched for runs than resulted in a wicket.. So where is all this talk of strikers being distracted suddenly emerged from.. One complaint from a canny skipper who wanted to get into Finn's mindset. It's a sledgehammer to crack a nut.