40/40 game, Mid-Whits won the toss and chose to field. Beddington 93 from 35.3 overs. Mid-Whits 94/4 from 22.1 overs – scorecard
I won’t go into much detail on this game, in which – glory be! – Mid-Whits supplied an umpire too, so I alternated the bowler’s end and square leg as the Lord intended. Why no details? Mostly because I’ve been very naughty and waited too long to write it up and many of the details have evaporated from my tiny little mind. However, two incidents stand out, both while I was at the bowler’s end.
First, during Beddington’s innings, there was a loud appeal for caught behind. I was unmoved. While the ball did definitely end up in the keeper’s gloves, I thought that the noise I’d heard as it went through was the bat hitting the ground, not the ball. However, the ball was of course still in play, and the keeper was right up close to the wicket. The batsman stepped out of his ground and was promptly stumped, and given out by my colleague at square leg. An almighty row ensued, the batsman was insistent that because I had not said he was out caught, he wasn’t out. He insisted that the ball had been dead and therefore he couldn’t be stumped. My colleague explained why he was out, asked me if I was OK with that and I confirmed that I was, that I didn’t think the ball had been dead. Eventually he stomped his way off, grumbling all the way.
But this does raise an interesting question. When is the ball dead? Law 20 covers this, specifically clause 126.96.36.199(.1.1.1 – I think this is one of those things like banananana or queueueue where no-one is sure when it ends). The ball becomes dead when “it is finally settled in the hands of the wicket-keeper or of the bowler“. A question then arises – and is apparently asked in every umpiring course, I know it certainly was in the one I attended – what does “finally settled” mean? Clause 20.1.2 attempts to clarify: “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” – or as we were told on the training day, when the batsmen are no longer trying to score and the fielders aren’t trying to get them out. The wicket-keeper clearly thought it was still in play and only if nothing had happened in the next moments would the ball have become dead.
In this particular case it was the last ball of the over, so when I thought the ball was dead I would have called “over”, but in normal play it is never mentioned, although I have once, in abnormal play called and signalled dead ball. Players may have noticed that I am slower to call “over” than they sometimes expect. That’s because I am waiting for the ball to be clearly dead. If the batsman had waited a few more seconds before wandering off down the pitch to talk to his mate I would have called “over” and he would have been safe.
This set the game up to be rather unfriendly, but thankfully that didn’t last and everyone had a beer at Mid-Whits after the game – although the batsman still insisted he wasn’t out, and the keeper still insisted that he was out caught, and they no doubt will take this to their graves, both thinking that all umpires are bastards out to get them.
The second incident was rather less fraught. There was another confident appeal on the very first ball of Mid-Whits’ innings, again for caught behind. Judging from the appeal – it was immediate and absolutely unanimous – and also from seeing a great many deliveries from the bowler responsible, it probably was indeed caught behind. But I can’t give someone out just on a confident appeal and a good bowler. I didn’t hear the ball hit the bat, nor did I see it. And I didn’t see it because the bowler was in between me and the batsman. The lucky batsman, who eventually went on to make 23 before being caught off the very same bowler, should offer a prayer to his guardian angel for that!