Steve Smith’s propensity for jumping down the wicket to spinners early on his innings and gifting his wicket was completely lost in a welter of comment on the umpire’s decision to give him out LBW. It was a correct decision, not one I in Park Cricket would have given in Fawkner Park, but a correct one all the same. It was generally agreed that the umpires had a bad game, a verdict that I agree with, as the failure of the umpires to enforce one Law cost Australia the game.
The Law is, no hang on a minute, I will keep my powder dry for a minute and instead talk about the difference between a rule and a Law. This is an important point to understand if you want to see why Jimmy Anderson has been bowling illegally for many years and Australia lost the last Test. Rules are the regulations each competition brings in to run their games. We in the Merks have One Day Match rules and Two Day Match Rules. We have a rule that allows play to be from only one end. We allow sides to end their matches at certain times. The DRS is governed by a set of rules that the ICC have brought in.
The Laws on the other hand are copy righted to the MCC and are designed to regulate all games of cricket, ranging from the Templestowe Under 12s games right through to Test matches. How did this division come about?
In the 1880s the English Counties set up something called the CCC or the County Cricket Council which met for many years and could only decide on two things. One: they could not agree on anything, and two: they should vote themselves out of existence and leave it all up to the MCC. This was a very wise choice.
The trials and tribulations of the CCC can be tracked through ‘Cricket. A Weekly Record of the Game’ a must have publication for all cricket historians.
So the MCC set up a subcommittee to look at the Laws. Some of the changes that have been made can seem very minor. In 1901 they made it mandatory for the umpires to get confirmation, after the ball goes dead, from the scorers of what signal the umpires have made. Have a look at the next Test Match you go to if you can identify the light that the scorers flash to acknowledge the umpires signals. No balls and wides are the most commonly given signals that were affected by this change. It may not sound much but later this year I will relate some of my great stuff ups, one of which, related to the scorers and the Laws of Cricket. This Law change in 1901 was a very good change.
The MCC rules committee ran the Laws and rules for Test Cricket very successfully for nearly 100 years because they had an enormous advantage over the ICC. Any proposed change would be used in English County Cricket for at least a year to see how it would pan out; 16 Counties and two Universities meant hundreds of games played in similar conditions. The captains and umpires would meet at the end of the year to discuss the proposed Law change.
My favourite was the introduction of an experimental front foot no ball law. It was first worded so that the front foot could not touch the popping crease; the whole foot had to be behind the line. Of course, the umpires, standing where they do now (these positions are not the original positions and it was Law changes that drove them to these modern positions) could not see the front of the foot. The Cricketer magazine for 1968 has a paragraph saying that after one game the umpires and captains had decided to use the heel, i.e. some part of the foot had to land behind the line.
All cricket historians should have a full set of The Cricketer
So most of the talk about the umpires in the last Test revolved about the DRS and the rules that the ICC have introduced to govern its use but I was ropable that the Man of the Match Rabada was able to bowl as he liked. Law 42 . 12 states;
- Bowler running on protected area after delivering the ball (a) A bowler will contravene this Law if he runs on to the protected area, either after delivering the ball or, if he fails to release the ball, after the completion of his delivery swing and delivery stride
This area that has to be avoided starts five feet in front of the popping crease and runs down the middle of the pitch. Most people when considering this Law think its purpose is to stop the bowler damaging the most important part of the pitch, and it does do so, but why is this regulation a Law and not a rule?
Nearly all cricket matches are played on artificial surfaces, are one day matches, or are played Saturday to Saturday where the pitch is completely remade for the next week. Surely the one in 10,000 matches, that are three, four or five day matches, would have a rule that their individual associations would introduce. Why would the MCC think that this is regulation required in all cricket games?
However the MCC realized that in all cricket the bowler must not run down the middle of the wicket after delivering the ball and the reason is quite simple. The umpires cannot do their jobs if they cannot see the batsman. That is why the MCC have made this a Law for all cricket. There are regulations in all sports that are designed to help the umpires and I may one day discuss my five essential elements to a regulation in any sport. It will depend on how many more wash outs we get this year.
So what happens when you start warning bowlers for running in the protected zone. The bowlers get very angry and generally it buggers their bowling. Jimmy Anderson has been contravening his Law for years. When an umpire finally does warn him he is forced to bowl from further out from the stumps and his out swinger disappears. Murali had a rule (the 15 degree allowed straightening) designed to allow him to remain in cricket but I have been far more annoyed by Anderson’s illegal bowling.
If Anderson comes out to Australia next year watch him closely and see how many balls he can bowl before he has transgressed this Law three times and so should be barred from bowling for the rest of this innings.
So why did Australia lose the Test? Rabada, when bowling from around the wicket, would run into the protected area at least twice an over, sometimes finishing on the other side of the wicket. It was quite easy to pick it up when he bowled from the members’ end as there was a clearly visible crack running down the middle of the pitch. If he ran on that, he should have been warned.
The inswinger that bowled Khawaja in the first innings should never have been delivered. Rabada should have been removed from the attack in both innings, so reducing South Africa to two bowlers.
Australia lost this Test because the umpires did not enforce the Laws of Cricket.
Let’s see what happens in Hobart