Sri Lanka v England, 2nd Test, Colombo, 3rd day April 5, 2012

Pietersen warned for switch hit


Kevin Pietersen has insisted that he will not abandon his switch hit after receiving a formal warning by the umpires for misusing the stroke during the second Test at the P Sara Oval.

Pietersen, en route to one of the most flamboyant of his 20 Test hundreds, shaped to play the switch hit before Tillakaratne Dilshan was in his delivery stride and later admitted he was not aware of the regulation that prevents him moving prematurely. Pietersen, who made his 20th Test hundred, began to get into place for the shot as Dilshan started his run-up and the bowler twice aborted his run up.

The incident occurred during an enthralling head-to-head between Pietersen and Dilshan, which had already seen Pietersen switch his grip around to strike the bowler through the off side. However, Pietersen then began to set himself earlier for the shot and Dilshan refused to deliver which led to a stalemate.

Asad Rauf, the umpire at the bowler's end, signalled the warning to Pietersen after the second aborted delivery after consulting with his colleague Bruce Oxenford. Pietersen gesticulated towards the officials, clearly unsure about what he was being penalised for. The immediate consequence was that if Pietersen, or any other England batsman, did it again during the innings Sri Lanka would be awarded five penalty runs.

"There's no issue, I just got my timing wrong," Pietersen said. "He said it was a warning because I moved my hands a bit too quick. I don't understand the rules, it's something I found out today, mid-innings, at a pretty unfortunate time. I've just got to switch my hands a little later, which I didn't know. You learn something new every day. Once I'd been warned I enquired about it."

Andy Flower, the England team director, immediately went to the match referee's room for clarification over the issue, his second visit of the match following his questioning of a review against Thilan Samaraweera on the first day. The ball after the official warning, Pietersen reverse-swept again and brought up his hundred. He went on to make 151 from 165 balls as England pushed for their first victory of the winter.

Oxenford, who was at square leg when the warning was given, spoke to Sky Sports after the day's play. "The ICC think switch-hitting is an excellent innovation," he said. "But when the bowler sees intent [in the batsman altering his stance] prior to delivering the ball and stops what can happen is we can get a stalemate situation...the bowler won't deliver because he wants to change his field if he thinks the batsman is going to switch-hit.

"When we get to that situation the way to move forward is to give the batsman an informal warning, then a formal one for time-wasting. If it happens again it's a team warning under time-wasting by the batting side and it's an automatic five-run penalty."

An ICC statement in May 2010 said: "The ICC Cricket Committee adopted the updated directive introduced earlier in the year which prevents the batsman from altering his grip or stance before the bowler enters his delivery stride. Should the bowler see a batsman change his grip or stance prior to the delivery stride the bowler can decide not to bowl the ball."

Graham Ford, the Sri Lanka coach and a mentor to Pietersen, appeared more to speed with the regulation. "The rule is quite clear: if the batsman sets himself up prior to the bowler's release and the bowler sees him and is able to stop the warning is issued. I think for about every single one he set himself up before the release except for the ones straight after the warning. I think it was all handled pretty well."

When Pietersen first unveiled the switch hit against New Zealand in 2008 it provoked debate about the legality of the shot because, for example, if a bowler wants to change from right to left arm (however rare that occurrence may be) he has to inform the umpire and the batsman. There are also implications for what fairly constitues a wide delivery or lbw. However, the MCC approved the shot, citing the difficultly level as a main reason, and hailed it as a good innovation for cricket.

"MCC believes that the 'switch-hit' stroke is exciting for the game of cricket," was the conclusion. "Indeed, the stroke conforms to the Laws of Cricket and will not be legislated against...MCC believes that the 'switch-hit' stroke is a difficult shot to execute and that it incurs a great deal of risk for the batsman. It also offers bowlers a good chance of taking a wicket and therefore MCC believes that the shot is fair to both batsman and bowler."

After this latest incident, the MCC added: "A batsman is still entitled to play the switch-hit stroke but he is only allowed to alter from one stance or grip to another once the bowler has entered his delivery stride. Pietersen should therefore have only been warned if the umpire was certain that Dilshan had not entered his bowling stride before the batsman shaped to play the switch-hit."

Pietersen believes there is more danger for the batsman and says it is a shot he will continue to play - if with slightly different timing.

"Like I said when I played it against New Zealand, I don't think the batsman should get penalised because I'm taking the biggest risk," he observed. "I've always said I'll play to that side of the field when there's no one there. I don't find it a hard shot, I can just manipulate the field when they bowl a leg-stump line. It's a shot worth playing."

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on April 8, 2012, 21:34 GMT

    @Test-is-the-Best We're going round in circles here. One of my points is how an umpire is meant to watch out for the batsman changing his grip before the final delivery stride on top of looking out for a no ball etc if there's a split second in it.Also as in any premeditated shot there is huge risk involved against a skilled bowler who can put you in more trouble than if you stood normally.Also it was proved by replays that on several occasions KP hadn't actually changed hands/stance before the ball was bowled so the umpire was actually wrong just to go on Ds pitiful reaction.Underarm bowling was outlawed years ago so that's a silly comparison but for me the switch hit is just a batting innovation just like the doosra or slower ball etc is a bowling innovation. Modify the LBW laws for it by all means but I don't see any reason for it to be banned although better to ban it than keep it with conditions which just complicate things. Please publish this time ESPN thanks

  • John on April 7, 2012, 19:48 GMT

    @Tumbarumbar on (April 07 2012, 16:00 PM GMT) You're absolutely on my level here. As I have just put , any premed shot is a gamble esp against a top bowler who can put the batsman in more trouble than he would if he was stood normally. A classic example was when Umar Gul yorked (lbw) Jos Buttler when Jos shaped (too early) to flick it over the wicket keeper etc. It becomes a battle of wits and surely the earlier a batsman shapes to play a premed shot the better it is for the bowler. We all have different views on this but to me if it is allowed it should be allowed unconditionally (except the umpire having the discretion re LBWS ,Wides etc) otherwise we have a whole new can of worms opened up.Also what happens in a T20 game if a bowler does this? Surely the only way to be sure is to go to a replay as the umpire has enough to concentrate on as it is

  • John on April 7, 2012, 16:00 GMT

    I think I'll go insane if I see a switch hit compared to a bowler either changing hands or sides of the wicket again. As it stands a bowler can deliver a massive variety of deliveries at a wide varieties of pace from the width of the crease. They can be full on the crease or short on the crease, they can be low or high in their delivery stride and they can set to bowl one ball but bowl another yet they don't have to tell the batsman about any of it. If they change the side they deliver the ball however you then have a sight screen problem which is the reason the batsman, at the top level at least, needs to know where the ball is coming from. If bowlers can't get batsmen out who are shuffling around and changing their grip they need to seriously rethink their bowling plans.

  • Supun on April 7, 2012, 13:19 GMT

    @JG2704- Its quite simple mate, If a batsmen need to change the stance before final stride ,fielding team too should change their field position. This is quite similar to Mankadding, which was debated few weeks ago. There are some limitations in accepting all these innovations. Would you recommend a bowler who changes his stance at the last moment and finish with Underarm bowling?..

  • RAJARAMAN on April 7, 2012, 8:13 GMT

    If switching hands before delivery stride is not permissible .. we see quite often in T20 batsmen moving away (left, right, forward) from stumps before delivery stride and it is permitted ... this movement may also require field changes ... and can the bowler be allowed to stop? Why can't we treat switch hit as one of the new strokes as many before and move along ... this stroke is a value addition to cricket

  • John on April 7, 2012, 7:54 GMT

    @Test-is-the-Best on (April 06 2012, 12:00 PM GMT) So by the same token a batsman should not be able to play the reverse sweep or any premeditated shot where he moves about his crease. If a batsman changes grip , stance etc before the bowler is in his final delivery stride then should the bowler not be good enough to bowl something that negates the shot or even puts the batsman in trouble ? If he is not skilled enough to do this then what is the captain doing bowling him? Also you have the instances where a batsman shapes to play one shot and then plays another shot. Should that also be banned? Finally there are instances where a slow bowler will jog up to the crease and then delay his delivery after going into the final stride - surely that is also unfair.

  • Rusty on April 6, 2012, 23:52 GMT

    To confound all this, the onfield umpires said that they made the decision to warn Peterson so that play can continue without delay, it could have gone on for a few overs if the bowler stops in his delivery stride every time Peterson twitched - I suppose the umpires have to see that the game continues and I forsee in the near future it being referred to the third umpire to decide if the bowler has got into his delivery stride before the batsman moved and it will need slow motion cameras to decide who should be penalized the five runs.... the bowler or the batsman. More and more like a Hitchcock movie.............

  • John on April 6, 2012, 20:26 GMT

    @ultrasnow on (April 06 2012, 09:52 AM GMT) Sounds common sense to me

  • Douglas on April 6, 2012, 15:48 GMT

    Just a simple question or two: If the batsman is allowed to 'switch' from right to left or left to right stance whenever he chooses without warning the bowler, can the bowler, if sufficiently ambi-dexterous, decide at the moment of delivery, to switch from right to left or vice versa without advising the batsman and umpire? The bowler cannot even decide to change from over to around the wicket or vice versa without giving advance notice of his intention to the umpire who then informs the batsman who can make whatever adjustment he chooses to counter this new approach. Any reason for that? Fair for the batsman should be fair for the bowler.

  • John on April 6, 2012, 15:25 GMT

    @tigers_eye, have you tried batting with your weak hand? Give it a go and then ask again why it's a risk to play like that.

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