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Jonny Bairstow was caught by Gautam Gambhir at silly point during the second Test between England and India in Mumbai, despite the ball having struck Gambhir's protective helmet...
To the naked eye it appeared Bairstow had been fairly caught, and the Yorkshireman left the field on the stroke of lunch, c. Gambhir b. Ojha.
However, replays revealed that the ball had struck the grille of Gambhir's helmet prior to him completing the catch.
In explanation, firstly, Law 32.3 (Caught) A fair catch states: The act of making the catch shall start from the time when the ball in flight comes into contact with some part of a fielder’s person other than a protective helmet, and shall end when a fielder obtains complete control both over the ball and over his own movement.
and further states: ... it is not a fair catch if the ball has previously touched a protective helmet worn by a fielder. The ball will then remain in play.
This confirms that an incorrect Umpiring decision had been made, although it would have been difficult for the umpires to see the small deflection. Bairstow seemed to be unaware either of the Law or of the ball’s contact with the helmet; it is indeed possible that the same could be said for Ghambir.
During the interval, England Team Director Andy Flower made protestations through the appropriate channels, but India captain MS Dhoni chose not to withdraw the appeal.
India were under no obligation to withdraw their appeal, and, under the Laws, Bairstow should not have been recalled even if Dhoni had changed his mind.
Law 27.8 (Appeals) Withdrawal of an appeal states: The captain of the fielding side may withdraw an appeal only if he obtains the consent of the umpire within whose jurisdiction the appeal falls. He must do so before the outgoing batsman has left the field of play. If such consent is given, the umpire concerned shall, if applicable, revoke his decision and recall the batsman.
However, there is precedence of this Law being overlooked from the Ian Bell incident at Trent Bridge in 2011, where the batsman was reinstated by India after an interval, having been controversially run out (opens in a new window).
MCC commented on this incident at the time, saying: "It is critical MCC emphasises the importance of playing by the Laws at all times... The umpires would have been heavily criticised if they had not implemented a request that had been made with the consent of both captains."
In short, under the Spirit of Cricket, the potential ramifications of India not allowing Bell to be reinstated were so great that it was common-sense to overlook the letter of the law.
The Bairstow incident, in comparison, was in effect little or no different to any other mistake made by an Umpire, be it on an LBW call or a thin edge for a caught behind.