To run out or not to run out? The question twice cropped up in international cricket in 2008: two incidents where a batsman has been run out after being knocked off his feet by the bowler, leaving him stranded while attempting a run.
First Grant Elliott collided with Ryan Sidebottom in the final England-New Zealand ODI at The Oval. Then Hashim Amla ran into Mashrafe Mortaza in South Africa’s opening ODI against Bangladesh.
Both ended up run out and aggrieved. There is clearly, therefore, a need to dispel confusion about how the Laws apply in such situations.
The key issue is one of intent. Was the collision deliberate or accidental? Intent is for the umpire to decide, though there could be instances where he should consult his colleague, who may have had a better view.
If a batsman deliberately obstructs the bowler, or any other fielder, then he is out obstructing the field, under Law 37. If a fielder deliberately obstructs a batsman who is attempting a run, the consequences are dire.
Neither batsman can be dismissed, five penalty runs are awarded to the batting side, the delivery will not count as one in the over, the run will count even if the batsmen have not crossed and the batsmen can choose which of them faces the next delivery.
This is the only situation in cricket where either of the last two strictures applies, other than the opening batsmen choosing their ends at the start of the innings.
But, if the umpires consider the collision is accidental, then the Laws apply as though it had not happened. The umpire concerned has no option but to give the batsman out if there is an appeal.
The only possible reprieve left for the batsman is for the fielding captain to ask that the appeal be withdrawn.
That code of honour, the Spirit of Cricket, suggests that this should not be necessary. The best course of action is for the fielding side not to put down the wicket in the first place.
This was the choice of the Australian wicketkeeper Wally Grout in the 1964 Ashes Test at Trent Bridge.
The ball was thrown to him after the bowler Neil Hawke had knocked the batsman Fred Titmus to the ground. Grout refrained from taking the bails off.
If only the Spirit of Cricket was so firmly ingrained that such gestures were the norm.