MCC rein in boundary acrobatics

SOME laws of cricket have been amended today to counter a trend of gamesmanship, and one spectacular aspect of the Indian Premier League has been whacked into the shrubbery.

The sight of boundary fielders in the IPL turning seemingly certain sixes into catches will become rarer now that the Laws define the legality of certain fielding tactics. The MCC, custodians of the Laws, announced eight changes today, including a new ‘bad light’ convention, tougher penalties on pitch scuffing and restrictions on the sort of boundary acrobatics seen in Twenty20 cricket.

The Laws, a fourth edition of the 2000 code, now state that a fielder’s first contact with the ball must be within the boundary or, if he is airborne, his last contact with the ground must be within the field of play. Knocking ‘sixes’ back into play for a colleague to catch or gather cannot be done jumping from outside the boundary. The fielder may subsequently step outside the rope, but a four or six will be scored, as to be expected, if he makes further contact with the ball while still grounded outside the boundary.

Umpires will now be the sole arbiters of whether play should continue in poor light, as has been the case in first class cricket regulations. “The batting side will no longer have any say in the decision, which was often made for tactical reasons,” the MCC said.

At the toss at least one umpire will be required to attend, and the winning captain must notify his counterpart of his decision to bat or field immediately. “Previously, captains could wait until 10 minutes before the start of the game, but in some cases this was being exploited to the losing side’s disadvantage – and therefore contravened the Spirit of Cricket,” the MCC said.

Other Law changes aimed at achieving more fairness between the teams include giving batsmen who damage the pitch only one warning before penalty runs are issued, rather than two – to mirror the punishment for fielders. Bowlers are prevented from delivering the ball with their front foot beyond an imaginary line between the middle stumps, releasing the ball as though they were bowling round the wicket.

Bowlers are forbidden to bowl the ball into the ground to a team-mate, which damages the ball and may waste time. Fielders will no longer be able to practise with a twelfth man or coach outside the boundary during a game, as this affords them an opportunity to prepare that is not granted to the batsmen in the middle.

The two final Law changes deal with very rare forms of dismissal. Law 28.1 has been amended so, if a batsman’s bat breaks in the act of playing a shot and the broken part of the bat hits the stumps, he will now be out. A new sub-section has been added to Law 29.1 to protect a batsman who is well in his ground – for example a sprinting batsman who has run past his stumps, but whose feet and bat happen to be in the air as the bails are removed. He will now be deemed to be in.

To explain the Law changes, MCC have produced a video with clips of international and MCC Young Cricketers illustrating both legal and illegal practices.

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