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.