Zimbabwe sparked controversy in the U19 World Cup today (February 3), when they appealed for obstructing the field against England after Hamza Shaikh picked up the ball to hand it to the keeper.

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The incident happened during the Super Six match in Potchefstroom when England were 78-3 in the 17th over. Shaikh played and missed at a delivery from Ryan Simbi, with the ball hitting his body and coming to rest on the ground in front of the stumps, right at Shaikh’s feet. There was a muted appeal from the Zimbabwe fielders for lbw, before keeper Ryan Kamwemba went to pick up the ball.

As Kamweba made towards the ball, Shaikh gestured to him that he would pick up the ball before doing so, and then gently threw the ball to the keeper. As Shaikh picked up the ball, Kamweba looked towards the umpire and appealed with his arms above his head. Shaikh turned towards Theo Wylie at the other end, looking confused at why the appeal was being made.

Playing condition 37.4 for the tournament states: “Either batter is out Obstructing the field if, at any time while the ball is in play and, without the consent of a fielder, he/she uses the bat or any part of his/her person to return the ball to any fielder.”

Thus, while there was no intent to gain an advantage or prevent dismissal by handling the ball, Shaikh could be considered out under the law because he had not waited for Kamweba’s consent to pick up the ball. Shaikh was given out by the umpires, bringing an end to his innings after nine balls, off which he’d scored one run.

The incident was similar to another that happened in the 2018 U19 World Cup. In that edition, West Indies captain, Emmanuel Stewart, appealed for obstructing the field against South Africa opener Jiveshan Pilley. Pilley had picked up the ball when it was stationary next to the stumps after it took his inside edge. After the appeal and subsequent TV review, Pilley was given out. At the time, West Indies coach Laurence Mahatlane said:  “Our take is very simple: we play to the laws of the game and it’s part of the laws,” he said. “It’s happened and hopefully we’ll learn for a long time from it.”