Umpires Wrong to Award England 6 Runs for Stokes ‘Overthrow’
Did a scoring error contribute to England’s dramatic cricket World Cup win?
One of the turning points of ICC World Cup 2019 final was the moment when England were awarded six runs on the fourth ball of the last over. Chasing New Zealand’s total of 241, England needed nine runs off the final three balls, which was still a tough ask, especially with Trent Boult the bowler.
Ben Stokes managed to play the fourth ball to deep midwicket but it was straight to the fielder, Martin Guptill, so Stokes tried for a double. To get back in time, he dived desperately, and Guptill’s throw deflected off his bat and went for a boundary.
The umpires called a total of six runs for England, two that were run and four from the boundary – and England were able to level the scores on the final ball of their innings, taking the game to a Super Over.
The rest, as they say, is history.
But it now appears that the umpires may have got the scoring wrong, as according to the laws of the game, England should have been awarded five, not six runs.
The Laws of Cricket
The rules of cricket aren’t prepared by the International Cricket Council, but are instead written and interpreted by the Marylebone Cricket Club, commonly known as the MCC.
The Laws of Cricket as prepared by the MCC describe all the basic rules, including how boundaries which are a result of overthrows should be scored.
Law 19.8 deals with boundaries caused by an "Overthrow or wilful act of fielder".
The law states:
“If the boundary results from an overthrow or from the wilful act of a fielder, the runs scored shall be
- any runs for penalties awarded to either side
- and the allowance for the boundary
- and the runs completed by the batsmen, together with the run in progress if they had already crossed at the instant of the throw or act.”
The highlighted segment is the key point here. Unlike what happens with overthrows in general, when the overthrow results in a boundary, the umpires are not supposed to count all the runs physically run by the batsmen. If a run is in progress at the time of the overthrow (in this case, the second one run by Stokes and Adil Rashid), the umpires can only count it if the batsmen had already crossed each other “at the instant of the throw”.
Applying Law 19.8 to the Overthrow in the Final
If one goes back to the footage from the incident, it appears that Stokes and Rashid had NOT crossed each other for the second run at the time the throw was made by Guptill.
Law 19.8 would therefore seem to say that England should only have been awarded five runs for everything which happened, not six. Four for the boundary, one for the completed run, nothing for the second attempted run.
This is the view taken by former umpire Simon Taufel, who told Fox Sports Australia that the decision of the umpires on the field, Kumar Dharmasena and Marais Erasmus, was a “clear mistake” and an “error of judgment”. Taufel is a five-time winner of the ICC’s Umpire of the Year award, and according to Fox Sports, is also a member of the MCC Laws of Cricket sub-committee.
According to Taufel, not only should England have been awarded five runs, but this would also have meant that Adil Rashid, not Ben Stokes, would have faced the penultimate ball (off which England got one run). England would have needed four from two balls, and Rashid would have been on strike, not Stokes.
Taufel took care to defend the umpires, and said that in the heat of the moment, they could well have thought the batsmen had crossed at the time of the throw.
An alternative interpretation could perhaps be given that the term “throw” at the end of Law 19.8 should not refer to the act of throwing by the fielder, but the moment when the ball went past everyone and became an overthrow. If this were the case, it would be legitimate to give England six runs instead of five. However, no umpire or expert has publicly endorsed this interpretation yet.
The ICC and the umpires who officiated the final have not yet made any statement explaining why England were awarded six runs, or issued any response to the brewing controversy and Taufel’s view.
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