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Sunday, September 6, 2015

Ben Stokes out obstructing the field ~ the unusual dismissals in Cricket

Andrew Mark Jefferson Hilditch, played  18 Tests and 8 ODIs from 1979 to 1985. Later he became an  Australian selector too.  Andrew Hilditch was a qualified solicitor, but one who lacked the IQ to cut out the hook, a stroke that consistently brought about his downfall. Both his Test centuries came in the space of three innings, against West Indies and England in a purple patch in 1984-85, but his penchant for the fatal cross-bat shot soon became a standing joke on that England tour of 1985 ~ and it his mode of dismissal once  that is the subject matter here.

At Lords in 2nd ODI yesterday, Australia won easily.   Australia 309 for 7 (Smith 70, Marsh 64, Bailey 54, Stokes 3-60) beat England 245 (Morgan 85, Cummins 4-56) by 64 runs.  More than the win, the incident that overshadowed everything else occurred in the 26th over of England's chase, when Stokes became the seventh man to be given out obstructing the field in international cricket. Stokes drove a delivery back to the bowler Mitchell Starc, who realised the batsman had taken a couple of steps down the pitch and threw at the stumps.

In the process of making a quick about-face, Stokes on 10,  also fended off Starc's throw with his left hand, and the Australians appealed, seemingly thinking the ball might have gone on to hit the stumps and run Stokes out. The third umpire Joel Wilson viewed the replays, though only in slow motion, and adjudicated that Stokes should be given out. Law 37 states that a batsman is out obstructing the field if he wilfully strikes the ball with his hand, unless it is to avoid injury. The reflexive nature of Stokes' action could have been argued to negate the "wilful" definition, but equally the ball was not coming at him directly, and he held his hand away from his body to strike the ball. Cases could have been made both ways.

But  the 3rd Umpire Wilson's view was the one that mattered. The incident - and an aftermath in which Smith and Morgan remonstrated about the decision - certainly added some spice to proceedings. The crowd began booing the Australians and when Starc put down a reverse-sweep off Morgan at short fine leg three overs later, the spectators cheered with glee.  For Stokes, it was the second time this summer that he has walked off Lord's after a curious dismissal against Australia. In the Test match he was run out in the second innings when he jumped to avoid a throw from Mitchell Johnson instead of grounding himself over the crease.

‘ Obstructing the field’  is indeed one of the approved methods of dismissal.  It is not new too – the  only time a batsman has been dismissed obstructing the ball in a Test match was in the South African cricket team's tour of England in 1951 when, in the fifth Test, Leonard Hutton top edged the ball and, thinking the ball would hit the stumps, attempted to hit the ball away, thereby preventing the wicket-keeper from catching the ball.

Australia captain Steve Smith said England batsman Ben Stokes was "blatantly out" and he did not regret appealing for his dismissal in the one-day international at Lord's. "If you're out of your crease and put your hand up to stop the ball, it's out," said Smith after the 64-run win. England captain Eoin Morgan said he would have withdrawn the appeal. Smith chose not to withdraw Starc's appeal and, after on-field umpires Kumar Dharmesena and Tim Robinson referred the decision, television umpire Joel Wilson recommended that Stokes be given out.

Recalling a batsman ? – Gundappa Vishwanath  recalled Taylor;  Mahinder Singh Dhoni retracted his appeal against Bell !! – not Aussies, neither England would have done.   In  ODI,   Rameez Raja (Pakistan) became the first batsman to be dismissed 'obstructing the field' ; Mohinder Amarnath (India) became the second player to be dismissed for 'obstructing the field' in ODIs when he kicked a ball away from the bowler to prevent being run out. Mohinder Amarnath (India) was also involved in 'handling the ball' in the second final of the World Series Cup at Melbourne, 1985-86 which Australia won by 7 wickets.

In 1989 at Ahmedabad  in ODI no 589, Krishnamachari Srikkanth was the captain – in that final over 8 was needed with 2 wickets in hand – Kapil Dev cleaned up the tail, giving a win by 6 runs.   After a 61 run stand with Navjot Sidhu,   Mohinder Amarnath, the striker, was adjudged by umpire Khizar Hayat to have obstructed the field.  Amarnath had kicked away the ball as Ratnayeke, the bowler, and Ranatunga were converging on it.

To conclude,  on the final day of that Test in Perth, Rick Darling drove Sarfraz Nawaz  to Sikander Bhakt to cover, who idly shied the ball towards the non-striker s end. The unsuspecting non-striker, Andrew Hilditch, picked it up and threw it back to Sarfraz, who appealed for handling the ball . The umpire had no option but to give Hilditch out !!!!   Earlier Sikander Bakht, had been mankaded by Alan Hurst.  Australia needed 236 to win the Test, the openers were going good with 87 partnership, when that incident occurred.

It did not change the course of the match – but did leave a sour taste.  Though there have been ‘handled the ball’ victims, Hilditch was given out, when he was the non-striker !!!

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

6th Sept. 2015.

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