Angelo Matthews’ Controversial Fielding

Via Cricket With Balls, I just saw Sri Lankan Angelo Matthews’ unusual effort to save a six. See below:

In the video above, you hear Ian Bishop and the other commentary come unsure about what the rules actually say. In the video below, ex-England captain Nasser Hussain comes out in favor of the move, though on fairly dubious grounds:

I’ll leave it to a more enterprising blogger — Homer, perhaps — to sift through the game’s voluminous rules to figure the official verdict. I don’t agree with Hussain’s logic, which fetishes innovation. Just because a fielder looks good doing something doesn’t mean what he’s doing is legal. On the other hand, Hussain’s right that no one should need to lawyer up to figure out how to play a game.

So, using that logic, I think what Matthews did is fine. If a batsman can earn a six if a fielder misfields and pushes a ball over the ropes, then a fielder should be allowed the chance to rectify the mistake and push the ball back. Besides, cricket wouldn’t be alone in applying this sort of rule: in basketball, I believe, you’re allowed to seek the ball out-of-bounds as long as your feet don’t touch the ground. In volleyball, I think you’re allowed to go way out of the court, with feet on the ground, and try to pass the ball back into play.

There are other ambigious areas in cricket, however, that are more puzzling. For instance: if a batsman moves to switch-hit, or reverse sweep, or whatever, does his off-stump become his leg-stump (which would greatly affect LBW decisions)? If a batsman moves before a ball is delivered, shouldn’t bowlers receive more latitude to bowl wider? As a child cricketer in Bombay, I remember I would occasionally try to play a good five feet ahead of my crease. My friend would simply bowl full-tosses at my chest. I protested, and he protested. He was right.

UPDATE: I see, thanks to Q, that the MCC has apparently deemed Matthews’ act legal. From Cricinfo:

John Stephenson, the MCC’s assistant secretary, confirmed Mathews’ fielding was deemed legal according to Law 19.3(a)(ii).

“The MCC Laws sub-committee had recently discussed fielding such as this and felt that such brilliant and quick-thinking acts should not be outlawed,” Stephenson said. “MCC is happy with the Law as it is written and occurrences such as the one yesterday, while extremely rare, are good for the game of cricket as a whole. It is also pleasing that two of the committee’s members were involved in making the correct decision on the field of play.”

Law 19.3 (a) (ii) states: A boundary shall be scored and signalled by the umpire at the bowler’s end whenever, while the ball is in play, in his opinion – a fielder, with some part of his person in contact with the ball, touches the boundary or has some part of his person grounded beyond the boundary.

Again, I’m not sure I understand why “brilliant and quick-thinking” acts immediately earn legality. But as for the law itself, it does give enough scope to include Matthews’ acrobatics. He was never in contact with the ball while touching the boundary or grounded beyond it.

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9 thoughts on “Angelo Matthews’ Controversial Fielding

  1. Q says:

    The MCC have come out and said that what Matthews did was legal.

    And it makes sense. Your analogies relating to what happens in BBall and VBall are perfect!

  2. Prafs says:

    it was, well,… acrobatic and looked amazing.
    but the only problem i have is that, he was already outside the boundary. THEN he leapt up in the air to smash the ball back in.
    doesn’t the fact that he had ALREADY crossed the boundary come into play?
    i know that the mcc have termed it legal.
    but its just a thought i can’t get over.

  3. duckingbeamers says:

    Prafs — that’s a good point. If a fielder went beyond the boundary, jumped up and then flicked the ball back into the field, I might feel a bit uncomfortable.

    Matthews, however, did not do that. He was in the field of play before, he himself tossed it over the boundary, therefore he should have been allowed to toss it back.

  4. Q says:

    Prafs, I understand the concern.. its been raised by many around the blogs as well.. but I think what duckingbeamers has done here by using other sports as examples should indicate why it should definitely be legal.

    The ball is the object that should be in play.

    Even in soccer, it is not a goal till the ball passes the goal-line.. if the goalkeeper is behind the line and he keeps the ball out of it, its not a goal.

    It doesn’t work the same way for fielders in cricket, but I believe it might be moving that way.

  5. Homer says:

    DB,

    Check out this post by Soulberry and the subsequent comments thread

    http://tcwj.blogspot.com/2009/06/slam-dunking-out-six-in-future.html

    Cheers,

  6. Krishna says:

    Q, With the soccer analogy, it should have been called a six, because the ball did cross the boundary line. If a goalie hits it while he is inside the goal, it is still a goal. It does not have to hit the ground or net.

  7. Q says:

    That’s true Krish. It would have been a 6.

    What i actually meant was that if a fielder is touching the ropes, or behind it, while keeping the ball in play, then using the soccer analogy, those boundaries would not be boundaries.

    Doesn’t apply to the Mathews example though.

  8. Ram says:

    I think it’s ridiculous how you can justify a rule based on some acrobatic fielding. The rule has to be consistent.

    Consider the following scenario with this new rule in place. A batsman hits the ball and it’s sailing way over the boundary clearing the ropes atleast by 10 yards. The fielder coolly walks back 10 yards, hops up in the air and hits the ball back into play. Now as per this rule it is not a six!!

    You cant say that it’s a six because he was not acrobatic? can you?

    • duckingbeamers says:

      Ram, thanks for the comment. I don’t know if it’s directed at me or another commenter, but generally, I agree. The scenario you describe would not be ideal, which is why I stand by my original logic: if a fielder accidentally hits the ball over the ropes as Matthews did, then he should be allowed to try to rectify the situation.

      That rule would preclude your fielder’s ingenious swatting.

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