Stephen Fleming had no regrets about the controversial dismissal of Muttiah Muralitharan in the first Test at Christchurch on Saturday, saying Muralitharan made a mistake and paid the price.
Muralitharan was run out after completing a single which gave Kumar Sangakkara his century. His wicket ended the Sri Lankan second innings at 170, leaving New Zealand a 119-run target for victory, which they achieved for the loss of five wickets.
After grounding his bat to complete the run, Murali turned back to congratulate Sangakkara. But the ball had not been ruled dead allowing Brendon McCullum, the wicketkeeper, to whip the bails off.
The dismissal stunned the Sri Lankans, who considered it was not in keeping with the true spirit of the competition. "The whole team is disappointed," Mahela Jayawardene said. "Legally it was run out, the ball was alive but we play in an age where we talk about the spirit of the game. Hopefully it won't happen again. It's not the way to play cricket."
But Fleming argued it was within the law. "It was pretty disappointing that it takes the gloss off what I thought was a fantastic 100 by Sangakkara, but the ball was still alive and the game doesn't stop when a player gets 100," Fleming said. "You can't just wander off when the ball's in mid-air and if we'd had an overthrow I'm sure they would have taken that.
"To my mind the ball's still alive and .. certainly in the cut-throat environment of this competition it's a mistake you can't afford to make on their behalf."
Today's incident was not the first time McCullum was involved in such a dismissal. In August 2005, during the second Testagainst Zimbabwe at Bulawayo, McCullum ran out the last man, Chris Mpofu, after the batsman turned around after a single had been taken and walked down the pitch to congratulate Blessing Mahwire, who had just crossed fifty for the first time at the international level. Mahwire drove Daniel Vettori to long-on, but Mpofu, after completing the run, ran towards his partner. McCullum took the throw from the deep and whipped off the bails, leaving Mpofu in shock and the match was won in some drama.
A similar incident took place, involving Tony Greig and Alvin Kallicharran, during the first Test between West Indies and England at Port-of-Spain in February 1974. Having made 142, Kallicharran watched Bernard Julien play the last ball of the first day to Greig at silly point before walking down the pitch towards the pavilion never having returned to his crease from backing up. Greig threw down the bowlers stumps and Kallicharran was given out by Douglas Sang Hue only to be reinstated next morning after the mood of the tour had been soured.
Another such incident involved Javed Miandad and Rodney Hogg when Pakistan toured Australia in 1978-79. During the Test in Melbourne, Hogg tapped a ball to point where Miandad was standing. The ball came to a halt a few yards before Miandad. Thinking it to be a dead ball, Hogg left his crease to do a little bit of gardening on the pitch. Javed picked the ball up and stealthily walked upto the wicket and removed the bails. Hogg, after being given out by the umpire, kicked down the stumps in anger. Mushtaq Mohammad, the captain, withdrew the appeal and called back Hogg. But the umpire Clarence Harvey, officiating in his first Test, insisted on adhering to his 'out' decision.