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Hitting the wrong stumps

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Following England’s third ODI defeat on the bounce, a key talking point has been something that happened in the 36th over of India’s innings. Steve Finn had Suresh Raina caught at slip by Alastair Cook, but the delivery was declared to be a dead ball by umpire Steve Davis as Finn’s knee managed to dislodge the bails at the non-striker’s end while delivering the ball.

As Raina (who was on 41 at the time) went on post a man-of-the-match 89 not out, that wicket could have proved crucial even though the match was by that point already slipping away from England thanks to Rohit Sharma’s 83 and some dreadful bowling by Jade Dernbach.

But the Finn incident sticks in the mind, and not just because he is much more likely to be a part of future England teams than the man who now has the worst career economy rate. Finn is a repeat offender when it comes to dislodging bails. Last summer at Headingley, he was denied the wicket of Graeme Smith in near-identical circumstances – even the umpire was the same. Then, Davis called dead ball under Law 23.4(b)(vi), which states that: “Either umpire shall call and signal dead ball when … the striker is distracted by any noise or movement or in any other way while he is preparing to receive, or receiving a delivery. This shall apply whether the source of the distraction is within the game or outside it.”

Whether the accidental removal of the bails at the non-striker’s end really distracted Smith, or Raina for that matter, is debatable as the application of this particular Law is subject to the whims of whoever’s umpiring. But the fact that it was the same umpire calling dead ball in Mohali is significant, especially as none of the Laws specifically state that a bowler should be penalised for accidentally hitting the stumps at the non-striker’s end (which is why it’s not a no-balling offence). The MCC’s statement on the Headingley incident, which backed Davis’s decision, is worth looking at for further information. It said that the batsman should have pulled away had he felt distracted but further added that moving away could have been difficult while facing a pace bowler like Finn. The statement holds weight, as the distraction occurs only once Finn is in his delivery stride.

Whatever the Laws say or don’t say, though, the fact remains that Steve Finn is a professional cricketer and as such he really shouldn’t be doing this in the first place. In an ideal world, this problem should’ve been worked on and successfully eradicated before he got as far as the England set-up. But as this isn’t an ideal world, this is a problem that he and the England bowling coaches need to work on. At 23, he still has time on his side when it comes to trying to get this right. However, therein lies another risk – that tinkering with his follow-through could affect his action, and thus reduce his effectiveness as a strike bowler.



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