Innovate, Don’t Fake: Do You Know the New Laws on Fielding?

England's David Willey making a spectacular catch

England’s David Willey pulled off a spectacular catch on the boundary during the first ODI against Bangladesh on 7 October 2016 in Dhaka (© Sky Sports).

England hosted the 2009 ICC World T20, where Sri Lanka showcased its famed unorthodoxy at its brilliant best. I happened to be in the right place at the right time.

On 10 June 2009, Sanath Jayasuriya having violently demolished the Windies attack with an 81-run blitz off 47 balls, it was Angelo Mathews’ turn to treat the fifteen thousand plus crowd at Trent Bridge, Nottingham to an outlandish piece of innovative fielding.

Vividly recalling after 7 long years, every frame of that extraordinary effort is described thus in ‘Winds Behind The Willows’.

The Sri Lankans unveiled another brilliant act with the first ball of the 17th over. Ramnaresh Sarwan lofted Mendis towards the long-on boundary where Angelo Mathews back-pedalled and took a great overhead catch right on the boundary’s edge. However, as the momentum took him over the rope, just in time he lobbed the ball in the air before crossing the line and then fell over outside the boundary. With an incredible presence of mind, he then realised that the ball would land outside the boundary for a six. In one motion, he got up, jumped desperately and slammed the falling ball over the rope, back into play. To complete this split-second reflex action, Mathews hit the non-striker’s stumps directly from the deep as well. West Indian batsmen only got the 3 runs they had run and Mathews’ moment of brilliance saved 3 runs for his team.

When a friend recently shared a video clip of this action, happy to note that my recall of events seem to have been spot on.

Mathews’ pioneering acrobatic fielding effort on both sides of the boundary was so bizarre, it sent even the commentators and umpires into raptures.

Appreciating a rare cameo, the MCC declared, ‘Such “brilliant and quick-thinking” acts are good for the game and should not be deemed illegal.’ It didn’t take long for many cricketers at all levels to emulate and surpass Mathews in holding it back from the edge, as it were. More often than not, now fielders in pairs combine to pull off astonishing catches at the verge.

The new Code of the Laws of Cricket that took effect from 1 October 2017 states the following, under Law 33:

If more than one fielder is involved in a boundary catch, the Law now states that any fielder making contact with the ball must either be grounded within the boundary, or his/her last contact with the ground before first touching the ball must have been within the boundary.

Had Mathews caught the ball back in play,
will it be given out according to the new law?

Share your thoughts in the comments!

In another development, fielders deliberately distracting or deceiving batsmen, was increasing at various levels of the game. Remember Kumar Sangakkara’s cheeky fake collection that prompted a desperate dive from Pakistan’s Ahmed Shehzad in an ODI in Dubai, in 2013?

Under the recently introduced ‘fake fielding’ law, fielders pretending to have the ball as a means of misleading the batsmen and preventing them from taking (further) runs, is considered unfair play.

In addition, Law 41.5 says it is ‘unfair for any fielder wilfully to attempt, by word or action, to distract, deceive or obstruct either batsman after the striker has received the ball’. It goes on: ‘An increasing practice considered unfair is “mock fielding”, where a fielder feigns to field the ball and/or feigns to throw a non-existent ball in an attempt to prevent the batsmen running. Therefore, the words “deceive” and “deception” have been added to this Law to cover both mock fielding and any other act which deliberately aims to deceive the batting side’.

Technically, Sangakkara made a deliberate attempt to deceive the batsman, but it was more out of jest than an attempt to cause confusion and prevent a run being scored.

Do you agree with the above statement or of the view that similar action should be penalised under the new law?

Share your thoughts in the comments!

Then, there are wicketkeepers who collect the ball down the leg side, turn around pretending to have missed the ball, and attempt to stump or run a batsman out after he sets off for a single. It is now considered as fake fielding, penalised by awarding 5 Penalty runs to the batting side.

Queensland’s Marnus Labuschagne became the first player penalised for fake fielding that cost his side 5 Penalty runs.

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