January 20, 2013

No-ball, not dead ball

Why put a batsman at a disadvantage for a bowler's rudimentary mistake of colliding with the stumps?

Steven Finn is developing into one of the finest fast bowlers in the world but every time his knee buckles and he collides with the stumps in his delivery stride, I throw up my hands in despair at the failure to introduce a simple change to the Law that would address the issue for all time.

The MCC indicated that the Laws would be reviewed after the 2012 Headingley Test, when South Africa's captain, Graeme Smith, was reprieved after edging to first slip, because Finn had dislodged the bails at the non-striker's end with his knee and umpire Steve Davis had called dead ball.

Davis cited Law 23.4(b)(vi), stating that Smith had been distracted. It later transpired that both South Africa batsmen had previously complained to the umpires that Finn's habit of knocking into the stumps was off-putting.

Finn's tendency was regarded seriously enough in the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka in September to be formally raised at the pre-tournament briefing for coaches and captains. They were informed 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, when England played New Zealand, the umpires forgot about the warning. Finn collided with the stumps in each of his last three overs. As a dead ball was ruled, no runs could be accrued from the deliveries in question. New Zealand missed out on a leg-side wide, a single, and then, on the final occasion, James Franklin drilled the ball through mid-off for four only for the boundary to be removed from the records.

Smith deserved to be reprieved; New Zealand deserved those runs. The dead-ball ruling protects the batsmen from dismissal but does not reward them with runs. The Law needs to be changed. The solution is staring everybody in the face. The ruling should not be a dead ball, it should be a no-ball. That way the batsman always gets whatever benefits accrue and an extra delivery as well. If batsmen stumble into the stumps in the process of playing a shot, they are given out hit-wicket. For bowlers to suffer a no-ball would be the least they deserve.

Meanwhile, Finn needs to stop kicking the stumps and kick the habit instead.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Nick on January 23, 2013, 3:09 GMT

    If the South African batsmen who "complained" were being put off then how did they manage to hit the ball for four? Just shows what a few mind games can do and they effectively deliberately disrupted Finn in that Headingley Test. Make it a no ball or do whatever, but to believe the complaints from Smith and co were valid is utter tosh. Why don't you apply the laws of the game for batsmen who make bowlers wait, it says that batsmen should be ready when the bowler is at the start of his run up. Messing about at the crease and doing your morning exercises is another irritating and deliberate attempt to frustrate bowlers, what is sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander!

  • Dummy4 on January 23, 2013, 1:06 GMT

    David Hopps, you're spot on.Steven Finn has got away with that absurdity too lightly.After breaking the wicket three times in an innings he should be banned from bowling for the rest of that innings.

  • Rayner on January 22, 2013, 16:52 GMT

    @ Posted by armchairjohnny on (January 20 2013, 12:26 PM GMT) - I really don't think Finn is doing it deliberately, he only just clips the stumps, at his size if he were trying to do it then he would seriousley risk getting caught up in the stumps and doing himself a mischief - a bit of a high risk strategy which might, just might, put off the batsman a little and he knows he's getting dead balled for anyway? Also if you've ever tried looking at the stumps during your bowling action and still getting the ball relativley on target, it's not easy!

  • Rayner on January 22, 2013, 16:37 GMT

    I'm an England fan, and believe it should be a no ball.

    Disagree with the leg bye rule change some are proposing though, most leg byes are from bad balls down the leg side the batsman is trying to glance it. I think this might encourage more negative leg stum lines and bowlers firing in the ball to the pads from round the wicket - borning for everyone. Thanks to DRS we're getting rid of padding away much more, let's try to keep the rules away from promoting negative cricket.

  • Roshan on January 22, 2013, 5:39 GMT

    Agree with the article. How about two other rules ie. the leg-bye and the toss. Cricket is mainly about bat and ball - simple. Why should a batsmen or his side benefit by getting a run when the batsman has been beaten by the bowler. Pads are there to protect the batsman - surely thats all.How many times have we seen a Waqar or a Wasim delivered late reversing yorker hit a batsman on his legs or pads end up with the bowlers appealing like mad only to see the batsman taking a LEG-BYE. Add insult to injury slow motion replays reveal that the ball would have hit the leg stump but the umpire decides otherwise. And then theres tne toss. In no other major sport is the toss as important as it is in cricket. In certain conditions the toss decides the fate of a match too often. Why not have a system where both sides have to name their playing XIs plus four other players BUT only the side losing the toss gets to change up to four players - after the toss. Do something to reduce the disadvantage

  • nick on January 22, 2013, 1:53 GMT

    You do not know a ball is a wide until it passes the batsman. That is why you cant call it a no-ball or encourage the batter to hit it. We've seen plenty of balls swing late in ODI cricket that start normal and then become a wide.

    But yes, the leg bye should be removed. Why reward the batting team for good bowling?!

    i think it would be a bit harsh to suspend a bowler for repeated infractions. Changing it to a no-ball not only awards the batting team a run, but also makes a deflected run-out at the bowlers end impossible, and any normal run-out at the bowlers end very difficult (with the broken stumps) and thus that punishment is sufficent. A suspension is ludicrous.

  • Dummy4 on January 21, 2013, 22:17 GMT

    @Stupid: The bowler gets unfair advantage when he/she over-steps. If that same delivery is bowled from behind the no-ball line the delivery length is different. Hence the no-ball is fair. Nothing to do with distraction.

    Regarding this proposed rule change: I think it is fair. Habitual bowlers like Finn should be penalised.

  • Cricket on January 21, 2013, 19:53 GMT

    @ Stup1d I can only assume you've never played cricket before or at least batted higher than 11. Watching a red / white leather ball roughly the size of a tennis ball coming at you at sometimes 90mph from varying heights and rarely in a straight line can is a blur at the best of times and requires total and pure concentration for about 5 seconds from the the top of the bowlers run-up to the when the batsman plays the shot. The eyes will pick up any movement near or around the sightscreen and there's not much the batsman can do about it as it's almost a reflex action. If you still don't understand, try this next time you're out walking or driving. Look at 2 cars about 70 metres away during the daytime, one with dipped lights and one without. Which one is clearer?

  • V.L on January 21, 2013, 19:24 GMT

    @skilebow Didn't you watch the Ind-Eng test series? I believed he did it about 2-3 times in the first test. Sure the frequency has reduced, but he still does it.

  • Arvind on January 21, 2013, 18:54 GMT

    @yorkshire-86 @bford1921 @Zohair.ul.hasan @jazzaaaaaaaa @Dark_Harlequin @dsirl I guess batsmen get distracted even less (or not at all, actually) when the bowler oversteps, so why call that as a no-ball either? Why even stop at that? No batsman has ever complained about getting distracted by chucking, so why should bowlers be prevented from doing that? Also I wonder why batsmen back out of their shots when a spectator moves just a few steps behind the sight screen about 70 metres or more away? I always thought it was because any minor movement distracted them, but after reading your expert opinion, I now understand that batsmen never get distracted.

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