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Law 28 states that the wicket is put down if a bail is removed (etc) by the striker’s bat, whether he is holding it or has let go of it. Are there any restrictions on how this applies? For instance if in trying to field the ball a fielder accidentally kicks a dropped bat on to the wicket, thus removing the bails, has the wicket been put down, so that a batsman could be run out.
No. Law 28.1 (ii) is correctly quoted in the question. However, in order for a batsman to be run out, Law 38.1 requires the wicket to be 'fairly put down by the opposing side.' That is, it insists that a fielder has to put down the wicket. Looking at Law 28.1 as a whole, it can be analysed as saying that the wicket is put down if a bail is completely...by
the ball; this implies the ball on its own. There is no restriction on how it is propelled on to the wicket. If the ball alone hits the wicket and dislodges a bail or stump, the wicket has been put down.
the striker through the agency of his bat or person, attached to him or detached from him. He could be out Hit wicket, if he or part of him, broke the wicket, rather than the ball breaking it.
a fielder through the agency of the ball providing he is holding it or through the agency of a hand or arm providing the ball is in the appropriate hand.
The last of these is the only way a fielder can put down the wicket. A fielder causing the striker’s bat to remove the bails does not come within these definitions. It is only if the striker’s bat hits the wicket in falling, or if his own movements move the bat on to the stumps that the wicket will have been put down under the terms of this Law.
[Law reference: 28.1, 38.1]
The wicket is put down if a bail is completely removed from the top of the stumps. At what point in the bail’s movement can the umpire consider this to have happened?
The situation is analogous to that of Wide ball. A delivery is wide as soon as it is launched on its course on leaving the bowler’s hand, but cannot be called Wide until it passes the striker’s wicket without anything having occurred, such as touching the striker or movement by the striker, to stop it being a Wide.
Law 28 refers to ‘disturbance of a bail’. Cases are well documented of a bail lifting out of the grooves and either falling back into the grooves or landing on the wicket firmly balanced on top of one or more stumps. Hence the process of removal cannot be considered as complete until the bail has either fallen below the level of the top of the stumps or moved horizontally to a point no longer vertically above them. The wicket is put down as soon as a bail leaves the grooves and the position of the batsman is to be judged at that point. However, if anything such as falling back into a groove terminates the removal process before it is complete, it will be considered never to have begun. The wicket will not have been put down.
[Law reference 28.1]