Blind, Deaf and Clueless. Not Out, Hit Wicket

My sister in law came around the other day and she was complaining. She runs a funeral parlour and after a hard winter (the old dears die in droves when it gets cold) she gave several of her staff some well-deserved time off. Unfortunately, for her, as well as the departed, work was booming.


“Look Phil, it’s now well into spring. We had four deaths on Friday alone. I’m working seven days a week. This sort of thing happens in the depths of winter. Not now” The funeral business is afraid of global warming as they prefer to have a defined busy period, i.e. the depths of winter.


I have a complaint about this cricket season. Not much of interest has happened in my games, interesting due to the application of Laws of Cricket that is, but in my last game I had an appeal under Law 35, Hit Wicket. It also needed knowledge of Law 27, Appeals.


Before discussing this appeal have you ever thought why this mode of dismissal exists at all? The earliest set of Laws we have date from 1744, written on a handkerchief, while the earliest published set of Laws date from 1755. Both mention Hit Wicket so it has been in the Laws for a long time.


New Laws are usually introduced in response to what was called, in the case of the introduction of the LBW Law, ‘premediated shabbyness’. The Wide Law was introduced as players, in Single Wicket Matches were deliberately bowling wide balls to get a rest. In Single Wicket Matches two players would be pitched against each other. They would have fieldsmen but, in the pure form of the game, only two players would bat and bowl. To bowl continually gets tiring and they were required to bowl at least one ball per minute (about what they do now in Test Matches) so the bowler, before the Wide Law was introduced, would often bowl several balls in a row so wide that the batsman had no chance to hit them. The wording of the Wide Law still reflects exactly this ancient premediated shabbyness.


I have a great example of the above in the incident that lead to the introduction of Law 42. 5 (g) Deliberate distraction or obstruction of batsman.


This part of the Laws allows the batsmen to decided who will face up to the next delivery if the umpire considers that either of them was deliberately distracted or obstructed by a fieldsman, and this is the specific incident that lead to its introduction into the Laws.


It was the last ball of second last over of the day and a bowler, who was going to bowl the last over, realized that the batsman were going to run and the one particular batsman was going to have strike on the first ball of the last over. This bowler wanted to bowl bumpers at the other batsman in the last over of the day, so he ran in a grabbed one of the batsman in a head lock so they could not run.


I have met the umpire that was officiating this incident and when he was asked “What did you do?” he answered, “What could I do? He was bigger than me”. The bowler concerned, in the last over, bowled bumper after bumper and was reported for that as well.


While this was an example of appalling behavior just think about Bruce Reid batting with Dean Jones in the second last over of a tight One Day Match. A fieldsman yelling yes, no, or wait (this has actually happened in one of my matches, a Grand Final no less) could confused the batsman and so insure that Jones did not have the strike for the last over.


So why is the Hit Wicket Law in the Laws of Cricket? You should be starting to get some idea. Here is part of the Law straight from the MCC web site


  1. Out Hit wicket (a) The striker is out Hit wicket if, after the bowler has entered his delivery stride and while the ball is in play, his wicket is put down either by the striker’s bat or by his person as described in Law 28.1(a)(ii), (iii) and (iv) (Wicket put down). either (i) in the course of any action taken by him in preparing to receive or in receiving a delivery,

or (ii) in setting off for his first run immediately after playing or playing at the ball, or (iii) if he makes no attempt to play the ball, in setting off for his first run, providing that in the opinion of the umpire this is immediately after he has had the opportunity of playing the ball, or (iv) in lawfully making a second or further stroke for the purpose of guarding his wicket within the provisions of Law 34.3 (Ball lawfully struck more than once). (b) If the striker puts his wicket down in any of the ways described in Law 28.1(a)(ii), (iii) and (iv) (Wicket put down) before the bowler has entered his delivery stride, either umpire shall call and signal Dead ball.


As you can see the Laws are appalling written, with any meaning hidden in prose and grammar that is designed to deter any investigation by the amateur but let’s think about why you need this Law. If it wasn’t in the Laws, what could batsmen do that would fall under the description of premediated shabbyness?


Well if I was batting, the first thing I would do would be to knock the stumps out of the ground as the bowler was running in. Hard to be bowled or stumped if there is no stumps standing. At the least, knock the bails off. If my partner had called me for a risky signal I would knock the bails off before I set off for the run. I have thought of pinching them, putting them in my pocket, and haring up the pitch.


You can see that the Law makers have thought about both these acts of premediated shabbyness and made sure they will not occur. Unfortunately the Law is so ancient its introduction to the Laws is lost in time.


So what happened in my game in Fawkner Park? A batman attempted to hit a ball for six. It was dropped right on the boundary and was a four. The batsman, being well satisfied with his blow turned around, and walked into his stumps. He had finished his stroke (he was anxiously waiting the result of it but in the lower grades of the Merks catches at long on are rarely taken) and he wasn’t attempting a run. It was a not out, Hit Wicket.


The fielding team appealed to the bowler’s end umpire who quite correctly was watching the result of the attempted catch and so was looking in the opposite direction of the striker. I immediately said “not out” as this is one of the decisions that the square leg umpire gives but no one was looking at or listening to me. I walked into fix up the stumps saying “not out gentlemen and it’s got nothing to do with the other umpire”


Who answers each appeal is covered in Law 27 Appeals and there is lots of interesting parts and nuances in this Law but that will be for another day when something interesting happens at Fawkner Park.


  1. Dave Brown says

    Premeditated shabbiness – love it! Could be used to describe my fashion choices

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