Bairstow was out, sure. But it was the end of the over and…

There’s one little fact that’s been left out when talking about the incident in the second Ashes Test, when Australian wicketkeeper Alex Carey stumped his English counterpart Jonny Bairstow. And that is the fact that this happened at the end of an over.

Australian wicketkeeper Alex Carey.
Australian wicketkeeper Alex Carey.

There have been numerous other cases of batsmen being run out in a similar manner cited, but none of them was at the end of an over. In earlier years, once the ball had landed in the hands of the wicketkeeper at the end of an over, it was considered to be dead.

In other words, you could not use the ball to effect a dismissal at that stage.

Bairstow ducked to avoid the last ball, patted down the soil near the crease – a nervous tic that afflicts practically all players – and then advanced to have a chat with his batting partner. It’s something that all batsmen do at the end of an over.

Carey collected the ball and threw down the stumps; after some consultation the umpire declared Bairstow out.

Going strictly by the law, Carey did not cheat as some have alleged. But cricket has this crazy thing called the “spirit of the game” and if one were to follow that principle, then perhaps Australian captain Pat Cummins should have recalled Bairstow.

It would have been a gentlemanly gesture. But then who has time for such manners in cricket these days?

The incident sparked a lot of name-calling on both sides, with Carey and the whole Australian team labelled cheats.

Below is the law that pertains to the ball being dead, a peculiar term that refers to the state when the game is in limbo. It is anything but straight-forward.

20.1 Ball is dead

20.1.1 The ball becomes dead when it is finally settled in the hands of the wicket-keeper or of the bowler. a boundary is scored. See Law 19.7 (Runs scored from boundaries). a batter is dismissed. The ball will be deemed to be dead from the instant of the incident causing the dismissal. whether played or not it becomes trapped between the bat and person of a batter or between items of his/her clothing or equipment. whether played or not it lodges in the clothing or equipment of a batter or the clothing of an umpire. under either of Laws 24.4 (Player returning without permission) or 28.2 (Fielding the ball) there is an offence resulting in an award of Penalty runs. The ball shall not count as one of the over. there is contravention of Law 28.3 (Protective helmets belonging to the fielding side). the match is concluded in any of the ways stated in Law 12.9 (Conclusion of match).

20.1.2 The ball shall be considered to be dead when it is clear to the bowler’s end umpire that the fielding side and both batters at the wicket have ceased to regard it as in play.

20.2 Ball finally settled

Whether the ball is finally settled or not is a matter for the umpire alone to decide.

20.3 Call of Over or Time

Neither the call of Over (see Law 17.4), nor the call of Time (see Law 12.2) is to be made until the ball is dead, either under 20.1 or under 20.4.

20.4 Umpire calling and signalling Dead ball

20.4.1 When the ball has become dead under 20.1, the bowler’s end umpire may call and signal Dead ball if it is necessary to inform the players.

20.4.2 Where either umpire is required to call and signal Dead ball under to, the ball will be considered to be dead at the instant of the incident causing the ball to become dead. However, where the Law specifically provides for the call to be delayed, so as not to disadvantage the non-offending side, under Law 25.7 (Restriction on the striker’s runner), Law 34.4 (Runs permitted from the ball lawfully struck more than once), Law 41.2.1 (Unfair actions) and Law 42.1.2 (Unacceptable conduct), the ball will be considered to be dead at the point of the call.

Either umpire shall call and signal Dead ball when intervening in a case of unfair play. a possibly serious injury to a player or umpire occurs. leaving his/her normal position for consultation. one or both bails fall from the striker’s wicket before the striker has had the opportunity of playing the ball. the striker is not ready for the delivery of the ball and, if the ball is delivered, makes no attempt to play it. Provided the umpire is satisfied that the striker had adequate reason for not being ready, the ball shall not count as one of the over. the striker is distracted by any noise or movement or in any other way while preparing to receive, or receiving a delivery. This shall apply whether the source of the distraction is within the match or outside it. Note also The ball shall not count as one of the over. there is an instance of a deliberate attempt to distract under either of Laws 41.4 (Deliberate attempt to distract striker) or 41.5 (Deliberate distraction, deception or obstruction of batter). The ball shall not count as one of the over. the bowler drops the ball accidentally before delivery. the bowler throws the ball towards the striker’s end before entering his/her delivery stride the ball does not leave the bowler’s hand for any reason other than an attempt to run out the nonstriker under Law 38.3 (Non-striker leaving his/her ground early). satisfied that the ball in play cannot be recovered. he/she considers that either side has been disadvantaged by a person, animal or other object within, or over, the field of play. However, if both umpires consider the ball would have reached the boundary regardless of the intervention, the boundary shall be awarded. See Law 19.2.7 (Identifying and marking the boundary). the striker attempts to play the ball and no part of his/her bat or person, whether grounded or raised, remains within the pitch as defined in Law 6.1 (Area of pitch). he/she is required to do so under any of the Laws not included above.

20.5 Ball ceases to be dead

The ball ceases to be dead – that is, it comes into play – when the bowler starts his/her run-up or, if there is no run-up, starts his/her bowling action.

20.6 Dead ball not to be revoked

Once the ball is dead, no revoking of any decision can bring the ball back into play for that delivery.

20.7 Dead ball; ball counting as one of over

20.7.1 When a ball which has been delivered is called dead or is to be considered dead then, other than as in 20.7.2, it will not count in the over if the striker has not had an opportunity to play it. unless No ball or Wide ball has been called, it will be a valid ball if the striker has had an opportunity to play it, except in the circumstances of and Laws 24.4 (Player returning without permission), 28.2 (Fielding the ball), 41.4 (Deliberate attempt to distract striker) and 41.5 (Deliberate distraction, deception or obstruction of batter).

20.7.2 In, the ball will not count in the over only if both conditions of not attempting to play the ball and having an adequate reason for not being ready are met. Otherwise the delivery will be a valid ball.

Ninety-nine percent of cricketers do not bother about the niceties of the game and play only to win. But there is a small number who are concerned about doing the “right” thing. Australia does not enjoy the best of reputations among countries playing the game; that reputation sank to its lowest level in 2018, when three members of the team concocted a scheme to use sandpaper to rough up the ball while playing against South Africa.

They were caught and the captain Steve Smith and opener David Warner were suspended from the game for a few years. The third man, Cameron Bancroft, was on his first tour and was also suspended. Smith and Warner are now back in the team.

There have been cases in cricket where bowlers have run out batsmen who are backing up before the ball is bowled. Such runouts are referred to as being Mankaded after the man who did it first, the Indian all-rounder Vinoo Mankad. In the fourth Test of the 1968-79 series between Australia and the West Indies, Charlie Griffith ran out Ian Redpath in this manner.

But then there are gentlemen who give someone who is backing up the benefit of the doubt. During the 1996 World Cup, West Indies fast bowler Courtney Walsh had two chances to run out Pakistan paceman Salim Jaffer when he noticed the latter backing up too far.

Walsh stopped on both occasions and warned Jaffer. He did not run him out. Was he wrong or right? Going by the law, he could have run out Jaffer and he would have been doing things by the book. But he chose to do what seemed right to him.

There have been cases in cricket where the batsmen slips when going for a run. Some fielders will run him out; others will hold the ball and let the man get back to his crease. Who is doing the right thing? It’s a good question.

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