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In the 2019 Cricket World Cup final, a throw to the wicket from Martin Guptill hit Ben Stokes's bat and ran away to the boundary. ICC Law 19.8 which deals with "Overthrow or wilful act of fielder" 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.

It seems that when Guptill threw from the boundary Stokes and Rashid were just starting their second run and had not crossed, so was this an error by the umpires?

(This question was originally raised by ESPN Cricinfo)

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Short answer: Law 19.8 is ambiguous and could be interpreted as permitting either 5 or 6 runs. 5 runs would be the common interpretation, though.

Explanation

From the Cricket World Cup 2019 Playing Conditions:

Overthrow or wilful act of fielder

If the boundary results from an overthrow or from the wilful act of a fielder, the runs scored shall be

[...] 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. [...]

Facts

  • Martin Guptill released the ball before Stokes and Rashid crossed on their second run.
  • There was no further contact with a New Zealand fielder before it crossed the boundary.

Preliminary question: when does the overthrow take place?

The overthrow, as the term implies, happens at the instant when the fielder throws the ball. There is no scope for it being extended to an action of the batsman. Therefore the fact that it touched the bat of Stokes has no bearing on any runs scored.

Should the finally completed runs be counted, or only the runs crossed at point of overthrow?

The way the sentence is worded means that either option is a valid interpretation. It does not specify whether at the instant of the throw or act refers to both the runs completed and the run in progress, or just to the run in progress.

Without any further information either way, it would be reasonable to assume that the runs completed means completed before the ball goes dead (as it does in normal cricket scoring) - in this case, before it crosses the boundary.

However, standard practice by umpires - supported by the MCC's e-learning guide (not an authority in itself, but gives an idea of how Laws are usually understood) - is to assume that it means the runs completed at the instant of the throw, plus the runs crossed on at the instant of the throw - hence former international umpire's Simon Taufel's opinion that one extra run should have been scored rather than two.

If Law 19.8 had read as follows:

[...] the runs completed by the batsmen at the instant of the throw or act, together with the run in progress if they had already crossed at that instant

the matter would be unambiguously settled in favour of 5.

If Law 19.8 had read as follows:

[...] the runs completed by the batsmen at the instant of the boundary, together with the run in progress if they had already crossed at the instant of the throw or act

the matter would be unambiguously settled in favour of 6.

As it was, either possibility is a valid interpretation.

However, comments by umpire Dharmasena after the match shows that he and Erasmus were using the common interpretation of the law (that is, 5 runs rather than 6). Dharmesena explained that since the second run had been completed at the time of the ricochet, he and Erasmus assumed "that they had crossed each other at the time of fielder releasing the ball." Geoff Allardice, ICC general manager, confirmed that "they were aware of the law when they made the judgement about whether the batsmen had crossed or not at the time" (and as a side point, also confirmed that "the playing conditions don't allow them to refer such a decision to a third umpire").

The MCC's World Cricket Committee subsequently discussed Law 19.8, concluding that they "felt the Law was clear" but also announcing that the matter would be reviewed by the Laws sub-committee.

  • The overthrow, as the term implies, happens at the instant when the fielder throws the ball.. Shouldn't it be when the fielder overthrows the ball? Guptill didn't overthrow it; the batsman made that happen. – Gyan Jul 15 at 14:29
  • @Gyan The fielder doesn't play any further part once the ball has left his/her hand, so it's a stretch to say that he or she threw it after throwing it, so to speak. – Spinner Jul 15 at 14:46
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    It's probably worth noting that Simon Taufel is more than just "a former umpire": he was the ICC's umpire training manager, and is still on the ICC Rules Committee, so his opinion here is as close to definitive as we're going to get. (I suspect the rules on this one will get a clarification sometime soon...) – Philip Kendall Jul 15 at 23:35
  • @PhilipKendall I agree, "former umpire" sells Taufel somewhat short (have tweaked). That having been said, his expert opinion is just that - the opinion of an expert - and doesn't affect the ambiguity of the actual Law. I also expect this will be tightened up by the MCC Laws sub-committee without much delay. – Spinner Jul 16 at 13:29
  • @Spinner - there have been a couple of developments since your answer was written, both around the fact that the ICC have made it clear the umpires knew exactly what the rules were in this situation and would liked to have referred it to the third umpire but that wasn't an option, and that the MCC's cricket council have said there will be a review of the laws here. Would you mind if I edited some of that into your answer? – Philip Kendall Aug 16 at 9:53
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This depends on the definition of an overthrow. It seems that the current set of rules (pdf) don't define what an overthrow is, only refer to it.

From what I see in the video replay, the ball was en route to its intended target - the vicinity of the stumps, so it would have either hit the stumps or been collected by the wicketkeeper had Stokes' bat not gotten in the way. But it did, and the deflection resulted in a boundary. So when did the 'overthrow' happen? Usually, when an overthrow happens, there is no intermediate intervention between the start of the throw and when the ball overshoots its target as the ball's trajectory is away from any collecting fielders. IMHO, the contact with the bat was the decisive point at which the throw became an "overthrow". So, I would award the second run to England.

  • Law 19 refers to the "throw or act" in the context of an overthrow or wilful act by the fielder. It does not seem reasonable at all to call the action of the batsman the "overthrow", and therefore at least this is nowhere near sufficient to justify awarding six runs. – Nij Jul 16 at 8:34
  • But Guptill did not 'overthrow' - Stokes made it so. There's no definiton anywhere in the document, only a reference to the term, and in that rule only. The common-sense vernacular definition of an overthrow would be a throw headed beyond its target. I think the rule makers haven't considered a scenario except the typical one, so the rule is silent on nuance. – Gyan Jul 16 at 8:49
  • The law does refer explicitly to what can be counted for scoring, and since the law clearly refers to the throw or wilful act of a fielder, it is still nonsense to bring in the batsman's action in touching the ball as a determining factor. As for what the lawmakers considered, the assertion that they only considered a typical overthrow in writing the law, is similarly without basis in fact. – Nij Jul 16 at 8:56
  • In the concluding clause, wilful act of a fielder is not mentioned, it says at the instant of the throw or act, where act is taken to be shorthand for wilful act of a fielder, so throw should be taken as shorthand for overthrow. In short, the specific event that happened isn't addressed by the rules. The closest specification is that of the 'overthrow', so the event was classified as an overthrow, but the overthrow only deals with a typical scenario of an overthrow which I describe above. – Gyan Jul 16 at 9:03

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