The market, Salonica

The market, Salonica
The market, Salonica

Monday, 12 August 2013

New turn, old spin.

The DRS/bat tampering debate has taken an unexpected turn with the discovery that a well-known English batsman has played several Test matches with a large hole in the centre of his bat.  The hole is reported to be about the size and shape of a cricket ball.

The batsman, who has not been named, denied that the hole gave him an unfair advantage.  To begin with, there was no tape or linseed oil around the inside of the hole, so any impact from the ball in this area would not be concealed from Hotspot.  The existence of the hole, he went on, was against neither the rules nor the spirit of the game.  On the contrary, the absence of a large piece of wood from the middle of his bat could arguably assist the bowling side if, for example, the ball passed through the hole and onto the stumps.  No one, he continued, had complained until now.  Why should it suddenly be labelled wrong?  He knew of many other English batsmen who had played with holes in their bats over the last 30 or 40 years, especially in the ‘90s against Australia. 

Analysis has in fact revealed that the hole is scarcely large enough for a cricket ball to pass through.  In controlled experiments, nine times out of ten, a direct hit travelling under 50 mph lodged the ball tightly in the hole.  This news generated a whole new line of discussion on BBC Radio’s Test Match Special.  Would a batsman be out if the ball got stuck in a hole in his bat?  Was it a dead ball, was the batsman obstructing the game, or was it something else?  Would the batsman be caught by his own bat?

It is now clear that the hole offers no real assistance either to the batsman or to the bowler in relation to most types of dismissal, with or without the structural addition of the ball.  However, if a bat with a ball embedded in it struck the wicket, the batsman would technically have played the ball onto his wicket at the same time as he struck the wicket with his bat.  This point launched the commentators into further discussion about the possibility of getting out in more than one way from a single ball – in this case, played-on and hit-wicket.  Surely, one pundit lamented, after centuries of cricketing tradition, they could not suddenly introduce a new way of getting out. 

Via text message, a cricket fan reminded everybody, public and pundit alike, that umpires have been having enough trouble with the system as it is, and that giving not out for more than one reason for a single delivery in Durham produced enough heat on its own – in general discussion, if not on the surface of the bat – without the introduction of a new controversy.  

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