During the match between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup on Monday, there was the first recorded instance of a player being dismissed Timed out in One-Day International cricket.
Sri Lanka’s Angelo Mathews was given out, on appeal, when he was not ready to face the next delivery from Shakib Al Hasan following the dismissal of Sadeera Samarawickrama.
The relevant Law here is Law 40.1.1, which states:
“After the fall of a wicket or the retirement of a batter, the incoming batter must, unless Time has been called, be ready to receive the ball, or for the other batter to be ready to receive the next ball within 3 minutes of the dismissal or retirement. If this requirement is not met, the incoming batter will be out, Timed out.”
The match, however, was being played under ICC One-Day International Playing Conditions, which supersede the Laws on this matter. Whilst the wording remains otherwise identical across both Law and ICC Playing Conditions, the Playing Conditions change the relevant timing from three minutes to two minutes.
The key part of the Law, on this occasion, is that the batter must ‘be ready to receive the ball’. Being on the field, or even at the wicket, is not enough to avoid being Timed out. The batter must be in position for the bowler to be able to bowl inside the allotted time.
The umpires determined that Mathews was not ready to face the ball within that two-minute allowance. He subsequently suffered an issue with his helmet, causing further delay.
Had the umpires been informed of a significant, justifiable, equipment-related delay within the two-minute allowance, they could have treated it as a new type of delay (as they would when, for example, a bat breaks), possibly even calling Time, allowing for a resolution of that delay without the batter being at risk of being Timed out. However, it is important to note that both umpires determined the delay came after the two minutes had elapsed, and that Time had not been called before the appeal.
Having taken more than 90 seconds to get to the 30-yard circle, Mathews appeared to notice that he was short on time, jogging the final few yards to the wicket. His helmet malfunction has since been shown to have taken place 1 minute and 54 seconds after the previous wicket had fallen. He had not, at this stage, begun to take guard and was not close to being in a position to receive the ball.
When the helmet broke, it appears that Mathews did not consult with the umpires, which a player would be expected to do when seeking new equipment. Rather, he just signalled to the dressing room for a replacement. Had he explained to the umpires what had happened and asked for time to get it sorted out, they might have allowed him to change the helmet, perhaps calling Time and thus removing any possibility of being Timed out.
Given that Time had not been called, and that at the time of the appeal more than two minutes had elapsed, the umpires correctly gave Mathews out. In fact, there was no other action for the umpires to take within the Laws of Cricket.
There have been several questions which MCC has been asked since the incident on Monday and the Club would like to address these.
1. Is the Timed out Law required?
Without this Law, a batter could waste time at the fall of a wicket, choosing not to come to the crease in a timely manner. This is particularly problematic in timed cricket, when the light may be fading and a draw a favourable result, but it is also relevant in limited overs cricket, where the fielding side is often punished for slow over-rates. Even if the intent is not specifically to waste time, a Law is required to keep the game moving and prevent significant delays between wickets.
2.Should there be an allowance in the Timed out Law for equipment malfunction or other reasonable delays?
Whilst MCC constantly reviews the Laws, the fact that this Law had never previously been invoked in international cricket, and only six previous times in first-class cricket, suggests that there is not a great need for change at this point. Furthermore, should the umpires think that there is a significant delay unrelated to the fall of wicket, they are entitled to make clear that this is a different interruption, and, if necessary call Time – as they would at any interruption in play. Under those circumstances, a batter cannot be Timed out.
3. What role does the Spirit of Cricket play?
In 2022, following the Run out of Charlie Dean by Deepti Sharma in the England v India women’s One-Day International at Lord’s, MCC issued a statement which included the following paragraph:
"Cricket is a broad church and the spirit by which it is played is no different. As custodian of the Spirit of Cricket, MCC appreciates its application is interpreted differently across the globe. Respectful debate is healthy and should continue, as where one person sees the bowler as breaching the Spirit in such examples, another will point at the non-striker gaining an unfair advantage by leaving their ground early. Whilst [this] was indeed an unusual end to an exciting match, it was properly officiated and should not be considered as anything more."
The intention of the statement was in part to outline that the Spirit of Cricket is not owned by any one player, country or culture and that the game is played with subtle differences right across the globe. At the Spirit of Cricket’s core are the values of respect and fair play, yet its application is interpretive, as issues considered to be totally reasonable in the eyes of some may be deemed unacceptable to others.
It is recognised that there are times when players will choose not to complete certain dismissals, not to appeal or, upon reflection, to withdraw an appeal. Provisions exist within the Laws of Cricket to facilitate these choices. It should be stressed that none of this is a requirement of the Laws of Cricket or the Spirit of Cricket, yet there are occasions when a fielding captain will feel that withdrawing an appeal, for example, would be ‘the right thing to do’, and such occasions are often rightfully held up as a positive example of the Spirit of Cricket.
A good illustration of this is the 2022 Christopher Martin-Jenkins Spirit of Cricket award. The recipient, Nepal’s Aasif Sheikh, refused to run out Ireland’s Andy McBrine, who had been accidentally upended by bowler Kamal Airee while attempting a run. Had Aasif run out McBrine, he would have been well within his rights under the Laws of Cricket, and nobody could reasonably say that he had acted outside the Spirit of Cricket. However, he chose to take a different course of action, and in doing so, rightly earned plaudits the world over.
Whilst the Laws and Playing Conditions govern the game, much like within legislation which governs society and other sporting codes, there will be frequent shades of grey in interpretation and not all scenarios can be foreseen and specifically codified. In these instances, it is the players who will ultimately determine how their game is to be played.
Laws of Cricket