The validity of the bizarre six-run incident that cruelled New Zealand in the World Cup final has been called into question.
And a decorated former international umpire has declared Kumar Dharmasena and Marais Erasmus botched their big moment.
Needing nine runs from the final three balls for victory, England were handed a huge slice of luck when the ball ricocheted off Ben Stokes’ bat while he was running and raced away to the boundary.
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Because Stokes was coming back for a second run, the umpires awarded England the two runs plus another four for the overthrows – six in total.
However, that ruling was questioned upon an inspection of the rulebook.
Under Law 19.8, "Overthrow or wilful act of fielder", it appears as though England should only have been awarded five runs, rather than six.
"If the boundary results from an overthrow or from the wilful act of a fielder, the runs scored shall be any runs for penalties awarded to either side, and the allowance for the boundary, and the runs completed by the batsmen, together with the run in progress if they had already crossed at the instant of the throw or act,” the law states.
As Andrew Miller of ESPNCricinfo pointed out: “The crucial clause is the last part. A review of the footage of the incident shows clearly that, at the moment the ball was released by the New Zealand fielder, Martin Guptill, Stokes and his partner, Adil Rashid, had not yet crossed for their second run.
“There is potential scope for ambiguity in the wording of the law, given that it references throw or "act", which may pertain to the moment that the ball deflected off Stokes' bat. However, there is no reference to the batsman's actions at any other point in the Law.”
While the ICC is yet to comment, retired Australian umpire Simon Taufel said Dharmasena and Erasmus made the wrong decision in failing to note that the batsmen had not crossed.
“(England) should have been awarded five runs, not six. It’s a clear mistake,” he told Fox Sports.
He expanded on the umpires’ mistake to The Age: “There was a judgment error on the overthrow. The judgment error was the timing of when the fielder threw the ball.
“The act of the overthrow starts when the fielder releases the ball. That's the act (mentioned in the rule). It becomes an overthrow from the instant of the throw."
The umpires convened for a long period of time before play resumed after six runs had been added to England’s total.
Taufel, who said the mistake should not be seen to have decided the World Cup, acknowledged the difficulties of officiating after such a rare event.
“What's unfortunate is that people think that umpiring is just about outs and not outs. They forget we make 1000s of decisions every match,” he told The Age.
So, although Law 19.8 regarding overthrows could potentially be interpreted two ways, this is from the E-Learning part of the MCC's Laws page, intended to help you interpret the laws. And I can't see any ambiguity here. It should have been 5 runs, not 6. pic.twitter.com/qM52xW76qm— Brydon Coverdale (@brydoncoverdale) July 15, 2019
"So it's unfortunate that there was a judgment error on the timing of the release of the ball and where the batsmen were. They did not cross on their second run, at the instant of the throw.
“So given that scenario, five runs should have been the correct allocation of runs, and Ben Stokes should have been at the non-striker's end for the next delivery.
“We're not perfect. You've got the best two umpires in the elite panel doing the final. They're doing their best like the other two teams are. This is just part of the game.”
Kane Williamson’s classy take
A gentleman's rule has traditionally dictated that once a throw rebounds off a batsman or bat that no further runs are taken.
However, there is no official rule to protect this, and the umpires had no choice but to award the extra four runs to Stokes after the ball reached the boundary. and reduce the margin to three from two.
The margin was reduced to three runs from two balls and it pushed England towards the eventual tie and super over, before they officially won on a boundary countback.
But New Zealand captain Kane Williamson said regardless of the game's traditions, it wasn't a time to push for a change in the rules to prohibit runs from being awarded after a batsman is hit.
"The rule has been there for a long time," Williamson said.
"I don't think anything like that's happened (before) where you now question it. There were so many other bits and pieces to that game that were so important."
Stokes immediately raised his hands to apologise for the incident, with the England allrounder clearly having no intention to deflect the ball.
"I wasn't celebrating," England captain Eoin Morgan said.
"It is not something you celebrate or cheer."
The validity of the crucial ruling was picked by cricket fans on social media in the aftermath of the match:
There might also be some mileage in the question of whether the overthrow incident should have scored six. As the batsmen hadn't crossed when the throw was released, the second run shouldn't count. Hence five runs, not six, and NZ win. Scary story. Definitely 18 rated. <shudders>— luca (@gormacha) July 14, 2019
@cricketaakash according to Law 19.8, pertaining to "Overthrow or wilful act of fielder", it would appear that England's second on-field run should not have counted, making it a total of five runs for the incident, not six. pic.twitter.com/omnZ7dn5p9— Munjit Singh (@iam_msu) July 15, 2019
@razi_haider— Kapil Munish (@kapilu) July 15, 2019
2. Should England have got five, not six for overthrows? -according to Law 19.8, pertaining to "Overthrow or wilful act of fielder", it would appear that England's second on-field run should not have counted, making it a total of five runs for the incident, not six.