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The Ten: Law Changes

by Wisden Staff

With Steve Finn’s knee-trembler of a delivery stride ushering in yet another law change in 2013, Jeff Thomas uncovers nine other prime examples of cricket’s love of legislation.

10) The Kneejerk Reaction: Finn’s Law (2013)
Not since Peter Siddle’s days as World Junior Woodchop Champion has a cricketer felled more timber than Steven Finn. Initially, many thought Finny was harshly treated when Graeme Smith was reprieved during the 2012 summer by the ambiguity of the dead-ball law. However, when New Zealand had boundaries off Finn removed from their total during the 2012 World Twenty20, the debate turned on its head. Stuart Broad tersely suggested that “the solution is simply for Finny to stop doing it” while the then Kiwi captain Ross Taylor demanded change: “It’s a rule for one person. Unless a batsman gets out you should just carry on.” Well now that’s what happens: “If the bowler breaks the stumps during the act of delivery, a No-ball will be called.” Just for the record, Smith wasn’t the only one who benefitted during the ‘dead ball’ period.

9) The Way Of The Exploding Bat: Hussey’s Law (2010)
Trailing 3-1, Australia had only pride to play for going into the final ODI at Lord’s in July 2010. No surprise then that the proudest player of them all, Mr Cricket himself, should lead Australia to victory with a defiant 79. At the death, however, Hussey almost departed in rather embarrassing fashion – digging out a Tim Bresnan yorker a chunk of his bat detached and missed the off-stump by the proverbial coat of varnish. Hussey looked relieved, but ‘The Laws’ at the time did not in fact cover broken bat fragments dislodging the bails. As a result, in October 2010, Law 28.1 (the wicket is down) was amended to read: “If a batsman’s bat breaks in the act of playing a shot and the broken part of the bat hits the stumps, he will now be out.”

8) The No Room For Mr Nice Guy: Bennett’s Law (1899)
‘Handled ball’ is a mode of dismissal so rare that Desmond Haynes had no idea it even existed when he was given out in such fashion during a Test match against India in 1983. It is, in fact, one of the original laws that were drawn up in 1744: “If ye Striker touches or takes up ye Ball before she is lain quite still, unless asked by ye Bowler or Wicket Keeper, its out.” The first player ever to be given out handled ball in English county cricket was George Bennett, who upon returning a ball to the fielding side which had become lodged in his pad, found himself the subject of a rather ungrateful and unscrupulous appeal. By 1899, the law was amended to protect batsmen in such circumstances.

7) The Dragster: Lindwall’s Law (1962)
In recent years there’s been growing clamour for a return to the back-foot no-ball law. Those in favour claim it would significantly reduce the amount of overstepping and speed up over rates; present extra time to a batsman who would hear an early call; and give umpires more time to focus on the striker’s end. Seems reasonable enough, so why did the administrators ever change it? In short: to combat ‘The Dragsters’. One of the greatest exponents of the back-foot drag was Australian paceman Ray Lindwall. Having legally planted his right foot he would slide forward to such an extent that his front foot could land well in advance of the popping crease. While many saw this reverse moonwalk as a canny skill, others saw it as cheating, and by 1962 the ‘Front Foot No-ball Law’ was adopted as a result.

6) The Pushing Of The Boundaries: Brearley’s Law (1979)
Widely lauded as England’s most cerebral captain, Mike Brearley was much better known for his ability to diffuse controversies rather than create them. However, in a World Series match at Sydney in 1979 he caused a furore which left him persona non grata throughout Australia. With the West Indies requiring three runs from the final ball, Brearley ordered all 10 England fielders, including wicketkeeper David Bairstow, to patrol the boundary edge. The crowd booed, a single was scored, and England won the game. As a result Brearley was locally vilified and the event heralded the arrival of ODI fielding restrictions. Yet the man with a first in Classics and more tellingly a 2:1 in Moral Sciences was unrepentant: “I was seen by the man in the Sydney street as the embodiment of all that’s bad in the British… I rather relished that.”

5) The Oh Brother: Chappell’s Law (1981)
“No Greg, no, you can’t do that.” That was Ian Chappell’s instinctive reaction in the commentary box to younger brother Greg instructing his even younger brother Trevor to roll the final delivery of the 1981 B&H World Series final underarm. With the series locked at 1-1, and New Zealand requiring six to tie the match, this was skulduggery of the very highest order. On Channel Nine Richie Bennaud branded it “disgraceful” and “one of the worst things I’ve ever seen on a cricket field”. Thankfully he never had to witness it again. As a direct result of the incident the ICC immediately banned underarm bowling in limited-overs cricket.

4) The Double Trouble: Welch’s Law (2010)
It was an ingenious idea, first hatched after Warwickshire’s bowling coach Graeme Welch – then a player at Derbyshire – saw his teammate Nathan Dumelow accidentally bowl a double bouncing delivery that yorked Darren Stevens. Inspired, he got his charges practising the delivery that lands on the second bounce at the foot of the batsman, but in 2010, before it could be properly used, the idea was suppressed, with an ECB directive quoted as saying that the ball was “inappropriate for the image and spirit of our game.” However, the MCC gave it their blessing, so the delivery can still be employed outside of English cricket.

3) The Headhunter: Tye’s Law (1624- 1744)
When Marlon Samuels flung his bat dangerously close to the Perspex face of Shane Warne in the 2012/13 Big Bash, it evoked stories of the game’s ultra-violent early years. In 1624 Jasper Vinall became the earliest recorded cricketing fatality when he was killed at East Sussex by the blade of Edward Tye, who was attempting to hit the ball twice to avoid being caught. Exactly when the laws of ‘Hit The Ball Twice’ and ‘Obstructing The Field’ were introduced is unknown but after several similar incidents they were clearly stated by the time the Laws of Cricket had been codified in 1744.

2) The Where Do You Think You’re Going?: Mankad’s Law (1947)
During the 2012 county season, Surrey’s Murali Kartik incensed Somerset by running out Alex Barrow as he backed up at the non-striker’s end. Even though Kartik had already warned the batsman once, Surrey captain Gareth Batty later admitted that by upholding the appeal the ‘spirit of cricket’ may well have been brought into disrepute and with hindsight it would’ve been retracted. Unfortunately hindsight was no good to Barrow who left the field having been ‘Mankaded’. The term relates to the most famous example of this mode of dismissal, when Indian bowler Vinoo Mankad removed Australian Bill Brown during the second Test at Sydney in 1947. Mankad faked to bowl, held on to the ball and removed the bails with Brown well out of his ground. Opportunistic? Outrageous? Either way, the law has since been altered so that a bowler may no longer ‘Mankad’ a batsman once he has entered his delivery stride; Kartik got away with it because he hadn’t feigned to deliver the ball.

1) The Crossing The Line: Jardine’s Law (1933-57)
The most notorious and controversial of the lot will always be the 1932/33 Bodyline series. With a cordon of catchers behind square on the leg-side, England captain Douglas Jardine instructed his bowlers to consistently aim for the bodies of the Australians from around the wicket. As the bruised and battered batsmen failed to cope with the new tactic (England won 4-1, Bradman’s average plummeted to a humanlike 56.57) the Aussies howled their disapproval and cried “ungentlemanly” behaviour. As an immediate response to ‘bodyline’ the MCC drafted a law in 1933 outlining that “captains should ensure that the game was played in the correct spirit” and that “bodyline” bowling would breach this spirit. However, with only that vague code to police matters, the next 20 years saw the occasional return of ‘fast leg theory’ and it wasn’t until 1957 that the following law was passed: “At the instant of the bowler’s delivery there shall not be more than two fielders, other than the wicketkeeper, behind the popping crease on the on-side.” Thus, essentially rendering ‘bodyline’ obsolete.

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