Earlier this week Barbados Tridents beat Jamaica Tallawahs in a tense, exciting Caribbean Premier League game.
The match was dominated by Australian all-rounder Steve Smith, who not only smashed 63 from 44 in the Tridents’ innings, but also dismissed both Jamaica’s openers with his legspin, helping secure a 2-run victory for Barbados.
However, Smith’s display was not just exceptional because of his fireworks with the bat and guile with the ball. He was also involved in an incident that highlighted a fascinating, and rather complex, point of Law.
The 44th and final delivery that Smith faced saw the Australian attempt to smash bowler Andre Russell over long on. Smith made a poor connection, and the ball flew high into the air. Before it landed in the hands of fielder Rovman Powell, Smith’s extravagant follow-through saw his bat brush his own stumps, putting the wicket down. Powell then completed the catch. Smith had both been Caught, and Hit wicket – so how was he out?
The traditional, somewhat sarcastic, answer to this question – how is the batsman out? – is ‘comprehensively’. However, the Laws of Cricket do, in fact, offer more detail than that, and indeed throw up something of a conundrum.
First, let’s look at the definitions of the two dismissals: Law 33.1 states that:
The striker is out Caught if a ball delivered by the bowler, not being a No ball, touches his/her bat without having previously been in contact with any fielder, and is subsequently held by a fielder as a fair catch, as described in 33.2 and 33.3, before it touches the ground.
All of these conditions were met, so Smith is clearly out Caught.
Law 35.1 begins:
The striker is out Hit wicket if, after the bowler has entered the delivery stride and while the ball is in play, his/her wicket is put down by either the striker’s bat or person as described in Laws 18.104.22.168 to 22.214.171.124 (Wicket put down) in any of the following circumstances:
126.96.36.199 in the course of any action taken by him/her in preparing to receive or in receiving a delivery,
We needn’t go any further in this particular Law – Smith’s follow through is clearly part of the course of action taken in receiving a delivery. Thus, again, Smith is out – this time Hit wicket.
The next Law to look at is Law 33.5 which states:
If the criteria of 33.1 are met and the striker is not out Bowled, then he/she is out Caught, even though a decision against either batsman for another method of dismissal would be justified.
This seems to clear the matter up – if a batsman is not bowled (which is the case here) and is out Caught (which is the case here) then he/she is given out Caught – even if (as is the case here) there is another possible method of dismissal.
However it’s not that simple. Law 188.8.131.52 states that:
The ball is dead when a batsman is dismissed. The ball will be deemed to be dead from the instant of the incident causing the dismissal.
If Smith is out Hit wicket – as we have seen he is – then the ball must be dead from the moment he puts down his own wicket. And if the ball is dead, then it cannot be taken as a fair catch, and thus, despite Law 33.5, cannot be given out Caught.
It seems, then, at first glance, as though Laws 33.5 and 184.108.40.206 contradict each other. How can Caught take precedence over another method of dismissal if the ball is dead at the moment of dismissal?
The answer here is that there is a difference between a batsman being ‘out’ and being ‘dismissed’. Being out means that the conditions of the appropriate Law apply. Being dismissed means that an umpire has given the batsman out on appeal, or the batsman has walked from the wicket, acknowledging that he/she is out.
Thus, Smith is ‘out’ both Hit Wicket and Caught. However, by which method he is dismissed comes down to the actions of the umpire, and of the batsman himself. If more than one dismissal is theoretically possible, but an umpire gives a decision on one of those methods before the other is completed, it is the first decision that counts – the ball is dead, and the second dismissal cannot happen.
As happened in this case, the umpire should wait to see if the catch is taken, and if it is, he/she should give the batsman out Caught – should the catch not be taken, the umpire can then give the batsman out Hit wicket.
However, if the umpire does not wait, and instead gives the batsman out before the catch is taken, then the dismissal is Hit wicket.
Similarly, if the batsman, knowing he/she has put down his/her own wicket, leaves the wicket without an appeal having been made and before the catch has been taken, then he/she is out Hit Wicket.
It is not clear in this case whether Smith does so – he certainly recognises that he has made contact with the stumps, but whether he actually leaves the wicket before the catch is taken is difficult to tell. Certainly, the umpires did not recognise that he had given his wicket up at this stage.
That means Smith was dismissed Caught in this match – not Hit Wicket. But, had the umpires acted hastily, or Smith had walked off, they could have changed all that, and denied Powell a catch in his statistics.