Cricket regulations that could do with a tweak

No-ball, not dead ball

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

David Hopps

January 20, 2013

Comments: 56 | Text size: A | A

Steven Finn's regular hitting of the non-striker's stumps caused problems, England v South Africa, 2nd Investec Test, Headingley, 1st day, August 2, 2012
No debate here. The bowler has to be penalised for his error © Getty Images
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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

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by nickinsingapore 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!

Posted by   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.

Posted by Selassie-I 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!

Posted by Selassie-I 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.

Posted by RoshanF 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

Posted by china_vanilla_bear 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.

Posted by   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.

Posted by itsthewayuplay 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?

Posted by maddy20 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.

Posted by WalkingWicket11 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.

Posted by freddieraghu on (January 21, 2013, 18:13 GMT)

@Helion... Yes mate. You didn't get me. My point being, it is unfair to forge 3disadvantages on fielding team. That is too much of a penalty. If bowler dislodges the bails, they cannot effect RUN OUT at the bowlers end. That is enough penalty already. So handing them extra penalty is a bit too harsh, having already the game becoming batsmen friendly with every passing day.

Posted by tanveer131 on (January 21, 2013, 16:38 GMT)

If over stepping is No Ball then dislodging bails should also be a No ball. Both teach bowlers to stay in their limits.

Posted by tanveer131 on (January 21, 2013, 16:33 GMT)

I totally Agree with the author

Posted by dsirl on (January 21, 2013, 13:44 GMT)

Why is there a debate about this? It's been happening for decades and no one ever complained about it before. If it's accidental, Finn should be avoiding the stumps. If it's deliberate, the umpire can presumably interpret it as a deliberate attempt to distract the striker, with the warning, penalty runs process that follows such incidents of unfair play that the law codifies.

Posted by   on (January 21, 2013, 13:13 GMT)

The author is right. It should be a no ball, with a run to the batting side. And not a dead ball. Like a wide for line or height. With NO free hit, though!

Posted by Harlequin. on (January 21, 2013, 12:29 GMT)

I agree with yorkshire86 even though his point was fairly trollish. This debate wouldn't have happened if Smith hadn't made such a fuss about it. I remember Shaun Pollock repeatedly knocking the bails off with his hand because he was bowling too close to the stumps and the batsmen just got on with it.

Posted by applethief on (January 21, 2013, 12:04 GMT)

If you look at Finn's action, it becomes clear that he doesn't just have a technical flaw that can be corrected by adjusting his run-up, but he has some conditioning to do - his back leg collapses as he enters his delivery stride and the bent knee collides into the stumps. Most bowlers are able to keep their legs straighter. Agree that it should be a no-ball though

Posted by   on (January 21, 2013, 11:16 GMT)

@ jazzaaaaaaaa what are talking about mate..why should batsman negotiate if it is a bowlers fault in the first place??.It is causing a lapse in concentration for batsman.Next you will say if a bowler can still bowl after after overstepping and batsman can play it comfortably then it should also be called a legal delivery.And as it is a bowler's fault so only bowler should pay the price for it.That's why firstly it should not be a legal delivery and secondly its should be a no ball.

Posted by jazzaaaaaaaa on (January 21, 2013, 10:23 GMT)

I dont see why the law should of been changed in the first place. Off putting for the batsmen? Well it's off putting for the bowler as well, and quite painful at times. If the bowler is still good enough to bowl a good delivery after hitting the stumps then the batsmen should still be good enough to negotiate the delivery.

Posted by kreeketer on (January 21, 2013, 8:45 GMT)

Looking at the new sensation Stevo, i am surprised how did the Coaching greats he came across early in his career did not rectify this...As you had said, the last line...he has to say GOOD bye to this habit of the debate here.

I think One warning (first time) but the next time No ball + free hit....bowler needs to be penalised

Posted by kitk on (January 21, 2013, 7:47 GMT)

The other time a similar but slightly different situation occurs happened the other night. Michael Clark was given out LBW but the ball went for 4 leg byes. If the decision had been reversed would the batting team still get 4 leg byes?

Posted by Vivek.Bhandari on (January 21, 2013, 6:49 GMT)

I believe it should either be a dead ball or a normal ball. Compare it with Lawn Tennis where a proper serve is called a 're' if it has touched the net in its due course. On the other hand, in Hockey if the defending team runs out early for a penalty corner the opposing team is awarded another corner. But in no way in either cases, the offending team is docked off any points or goals, for that matter.

So, I would say that it should not be a no ball.

Posted by Udendra on (January 21, 2013, 3:28 GMT)

Yes, agree. The bowler should be penalised.

Posted by landl47 on (January 21, 2013, 3:16 GMT)

I'm an England fan and I agree entirely that this should be a no-ball. There's ample room for the bowler to run through without knocking the bails off. Finn's not the only bowler who has done this, just the most prominent at the moment, and he and every other bowler must get their act together and move a few inches wider. This is not difficult or a handicap to the bowler. It's exactly the same thing as not allowing the bowler to cross the outside of the crease with his back foot. If that's a no-ball, why shouldn't the same standard apply when he goes too far towards the centre of the crease?

Posted by   on (January 21, 2013, 1:34 GMT)

I agree, but why not go further? All wides should go and be replaced with no balls because, why should a batsman be able to be stumped off a wide? And if a bowler does bowl wide, encourage the batsman to hit it by calling no ball, meaning he can't be out caught, stumped etc.

And leg byes should no longer exist. A batsman should not be awarded runs because the ball hit him, and not the other way around.

Posted by studbaker60 on (January 20, 2013, 23:55 GMT)

If a batsman hits runs on such balls they should be counted. Why dead ball? He has bowled wrongly and its his mistake. What if the bowler deliberately start hitting bails to distract batsman!! Hitting bails while bowling should be a no-ball.

Posted by   on (January 20, 2013, 23:22 GMT)

Being a Kiwi I'm With Mr Hopps on this one. If we hadn't had those extra runs struck from the record that game may have gone the other way and the Kiwis would have made it out of the 8 and into the finals, maybe even won the tournament. Essential Finn was rewarded for a fault in his bowling action by having wide's and boundaries struck from the score book. A bowler knocking the bails off in his/her delivery stride is a relatively rare occurrence in world cricket (well unless your playing England), most bowlers seem to be able to avoid it and I bet Finn could as well if there were consequences for doing it. Its a flaw in his action that he needs to correct but he needs to see the value in correcting it, and for that to happen there needs to be consequences, and what better than for the bowler to give away runs !

Posted by   on (January 20, 2013, 21:07 GMT)

It s a good idea to Call it a "No Ball" first time and if the bowler does it again he should be warned and if he repeats again for a 3rd. time he should be suspended for one Match.Then and only then these bowlers will learn not to hit the stumps at the time of delivery. It is very well to implement new rules but should be used so that the Player corrects his mistake and not keep on repeating again again,over after over, like a school kid. Little more discipline goes a long way and which the player can develop or lose out.

Posted by shillingsworth on (January 20, 2013, 20:09 GMT)

The solution is to go back to the situation that prevailed before Finn was 'dead balled'. It wasn't dead ball, it wasn't a no ball either, everyone just got on with the game.

Posted by   on (January 20, 2013, 19:59 GMT)

David Hopps is right on target. As I have stated before Steve Finn should be penalized for his action. Unless he is penalized this will be a continuous action and other bowlers may follow suit just to distract the batsman. The ball should be a no ball, not a dead ball and everything thing should be in favor of the batsman except run out. There is no first warning for a no-ball.

DRS should be in the hands of the umpire and not the players. Even though it might consume a little more time, but this will ensure more fairness of the game. Every team playing aginst India should have the option of using the DRS whether India wants to use or not.

Posted by Helion on (January 20, 2013, 18:29 GMT)

@ freddieraghu on (January 20 2013, 17:02 PM GMT) <<Mr.Hopps missed simple logic. ... SO IT SHOULD NOT BE A NO-BALL.>>

In as much of your effort, you just listed the reasons why it must be a no-ball.

Posted by craigkidson on (January 20, 2013, 18:03 GMT)

Mr Hopps you have got this wrong. In a game where the batsmen have been given so many benefits in recent years this is definately not needed. Dead ball should remain.

Posted by freddieraghu on (January 20, 2013, 17:02 GMT)

Mr.Hopps missed simple logic. If it is called a NO BALL. Then the fielding team would face 3 disadvantages. 1. 1 run penalty 2. Extra ball 3. The batsman cannot be out-RUN OUT at the bowler's end. Or they wud have to pluck the stump out. SO IT SHOULD NOT BE A NO-BALL.

Posted by 110no on (January 20, 2013, 16:53 GMT)

Distracting or not, it is down to a poor bowling action. He needs to bowl wider of the crease or go round the wicket. Perhaps he should bowl left-handed.

Posted by Headbandenator on (January 20, 2013, 16:16 GMT)

@ Yorkshire-86. Rude, ignorant, and undoubtedly not qualified to make such statements,

Posted by ManagerDhoni on (January 20, 2013, 15:59 GMT)

Cricket have some crazy rules which are really out of (old) box, they need correction.

As David mentioned- Dead ball for bowler knocking the stumps, unfair for batsman. Change As: Count the runs scored on that (but dead ball definition will not allow that). So said change it to "No ball".

Second, Why run for Leg bye, so unfair for bowler.

Change As: Call it "No runs" or "Dead runs", let them allow change of ends when they run. As we all know - Cricket is battle between bat and ball, not between ball n Hip (or thigh or any body parts).

Posted by Zohair.ul.hasan on (January 20, 2013, 15:28 GMT)

Posted by yorkshire-86 on (January 20 2013, 12:01 PM GMT) Bowler has done nothing wrong. Bowlers have knocked down stumps in delivery throughout the history of the game, and apart from the one FREAK batsmen who moaned about it, batsmen have just carried on batting. The one FREAK batsmen should be made to just carry on batting, like he always had to. No dead ball or no ball since the bowler has done nothing wrong. The only person in the wrong is that one freak batsman who moaned about it. Why should the other 2999 Test cricketers lose perfectly good boundary hits to dead balls because one freak batsman has decided the bail falling off 'distracts' him, when it has never distracted the other 2999 players? AGREE

Posted by gudolerhum on (January 20, 2013, 14:52 GMT)

Finn would stop if he was made to stop by either his captain or the team coach. If his action causes his team to lose a run out decision because he has knocked the bails off the team is not going to be too pleased. The non-striker may be out of his ground, the ball hits Finn's hand and rebounds on to the stumps - NOT OUT! because the bails are already off! The non striker goes on to make a massive score or save the game, the captain/coach ain't going to be too pleased and Mr Finn will get that message loud and clear! No need for no-ball or dead ball, let the captain and coach deal with Mr Finn or any other bowler with a similar problem that could affect the team's success.

Posted by EdwinD on (January 20, 2013, 14:38 GMT)

Good point re: if a batsman hits the stumps he is ultimately penalised.

Agree that a no-ball is the common-sense solution here else a bowler may look to deliberately distract the batsman knowing that he won't be penalised - the problem is that 'common' sense is actually not that common, especially where the ICC are concerned....

Posted by PhaniBhaskar24 on (January 20, 2013, 14:26 GMT)

The other side of the coin is: A dead ball can only be called if the batsmen is distracted by something & hence doesn't offer a shot& moves away from stumps, if the ball rolls more than 3 times before reaching the popping crease...even considering these, bowlers hitting the runners wicket can't be called as dead simple as that

Posted by o-bomb on (January 20, 2013, 13:15 GMT)

Makes sense. It's a no ball if you bowl from too wide of the crease so it would make sense to be a no ball from too close too. You can still use the crease, you just need to know how close you are to the stumps. Hopefully it would make sure it happens less often too.

Posted by armchairjohnny on (January 20, 2013, 12:26 GMT)

Typically, you will often see this type of behavior mimicked by youngsters on a Sunday Afternoon during League cricket matches. Whilst the competitive nature of the sport has no doubt increased and made for thrilling sagas over the years, It never ceases to amaze me the lengths cricketers are willing to go to, in order to gain even the slightest advantage. I'm astonished that on occasion, this sport still gets referred to as the 'gentleman's game'. I do agree with the overall sentiment of the article. It's truly saddening to see the sportsmanship gradually eroding from the game at all levels (from International matches right through to the village green). Behavior that was once unacceptable in an earlier era of the game, is now considered 'normal'. To be fair, we can't really blame bowlers for such aggressive behavior, especially when the odds are so heavily stacked against them. I just wish there was a way of striking a fair balance between sportsmanship, and fair cunning/aggression.

Posted by Meety on (January 20, 2013, 12:22 GMT)

@ Truemans_Ghost on (January 20 2013, 10:03 AM GMT) - yep the general consensus from fans was that it should be a no-ball. I would be hapopy enough for ONE case of dead ball per innings for a bowler. Anything more than one suggests a technique flaw. The result of the ball can go either way, but I would be ropable if I hit a 4 off a dead ball from Finn.

Posted by bford1921 on (January 20, 2013, 12:05 GMT)

the idea this is distracting to the batsman is ludicrous. in most cases the batsmen will have played their stroke before the bails have hit the ground, it was a wheeze by the south Africans to irritate the bowler, and thankfully backfired. There should be no dead ball or no ball. I seem to recall Sean Pollock had this habit as well, knocking the bails off with his hand, but nobody seemed to bother then.

Posted by yorkshire-86 on (January 20, 2013, 12:01 GMT)

Bowler has done nothing wrong. Bowlers have knocked down stumps in delivery throughout the history of the game, and apart from the one FREAK batsmen who moaned about it, batsmen have just carried on batting. The one FREAK batsmen should be made to just carry on batting, like he always had to. No dead ball or no ball since the bowler has done nothing wrong. The only person in the wrong is that one freak batsman who moaned about it. Why should the other 2999 Test cricketers lose perfectly good boundary hits to dead balls because one freak batsman has decided the bail falling off 'distracts' him, when it has never distracted the other 2999 players?

Posted by realfan on (January 20, 2013, 11:47 GMT)

suppose a batsmen hit the wicket himself then it will be given as out hit wicket... why do bowlers go unpunished? there should be rules like there a rule of maximum 2 full tosses above waist allowed for a bowler in 1 match.... some thing like that will help bowlers bowling to their limits.....

Posted by AK47_pk on (January 20, 2013, 10:38 GMT)

Why batsmen shud be deprived of runs if he is colliding with stumps? It shud be him getting punished nd simple way is to call it a no ball. I agree if a batsman does that hes given hit wicket out so y not call it a no ball when bowler is doing the same? OR there shud be 2 warnings nd then he shud not be allowed to bowl in rest of the match.

Posted by Truemans_Ghost on (January 20, 2013, 10:03 GMT)

I do wonder why this article was written. I think virtually everyone decided months ago that this was the right thing to do. It is a proportionate penalty and it will mean people will stop demonising Finn. I don't think there is any real debate over it, just the inertia in changing the laws.

Posted by andystat on (January 20, 2013, 9:49 GMT)

I agree, I've said this myself before. Finn would soon stop doing it if he was no-balled. Such a simple and obvious law change you wonder what the problem is.

Posted by knight_in_cricket_gear on (January 20, 2013, 9:31 GMT)

excellent article..! The cricketing Gods have missed a trick here

Posted by   on (January 20, 2013, 9:31 GMT)

@ 200ondebut - you are missing the point. Bowlers can use the crease just as batsmen can (bowling wider or tighter in, over/round the wicket, etc.). However, just as a batsman is penalised for stepping on his stumps, a bowler should be penalised for knocking the bails off too (as Mr. Hopps notes in his article).

The bowler can dance as much as he likes on the way in to bowl, make faces, grunt when he bowls, whatever - just leave the stumps alone.

Posted by Pathiyal on (January 20, 2013, 9:13 GMT)

yes, the change of the rule is inevitable for the interest of the game!

Posted by skilebow on (January 20, 2013, 8:54 GMT)

Well he has hasn't he? I could be wrong but I haven't seen it since the World T20

Posted by ygkd on (January 20, 2013, 8:35 GMT)

Knees up brother Finn. Or cop a no-ball.

Posted by purusottamsamarath23 on (January 20, 2013, 8:14 GMT)

Absolutely, Why bowler should get free from punishment for their wrong...........

Posted by Nutcutlet on (January 20, 2013, 5:37 GMT)

Absolutely! I said this on here (somewhere..) many months ago. The prospect of a genuine penalty would surely bring this infuriating aspect of the game to an end. When Steven Finn re-appeared this winter, I was sure that he would not be 'dead-balling' after all the expert coaching that must have been available to him & that management would surely have directed. He has been better, but not completely cured. Your comparison with the batsman stumbling into his stumps in playing a shot is surely the best possible analogy; it clinches the argument. Thank you, David.

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David Hopps David Hopps joined ESPNcricinfo as UK editor early in 2012. For the previous 20 years he was a senior cricket writer for the Guardian and covered England extensively during that time in all Test-playing nations. He also covered four Olympic Games and has written several cricket books, including collections of cricket quotations. He has been an avid amateur cricketer since he was 12, and so knows the pain of repeated failure only too well. The pile of untouched novels he plans to read, but rarely gets around to, is now almost touching the ceiling. He divides his time between the ESPNcricinfo office in Hammersmith and his beloved Yorkshire.

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