Infectious Outbreak hits Test cricket

Unaccustomed as we are to seeing professional cricket administered and played to rules and regulations which have a basis in common sense, it looks like we might just have to get used to it.

Every single one of the recent batch of changes made by the ICC to the Playing Conditions of the international and first-class game make sense. Every single one. The only questionable aspect about them is why they took so long to happen.

Bat thickness (67mm) and the width of the edges (40mm) will now be limited. Batsmen will be subjected to random bat tests or, if the umpires suspect a weapon may be transgressing the rules, specific tests using a recently manufactured gauges. Excellent idea. Far less top edged sixes now – look out David Warner.

Byes and leg byes accruing off wides and no balls will now be scored and recorded as such. What a nonsense it was when an illegal delivery flew to the boundary and was recorded as five wides or no balls. A scorecard showing 15 wides was often interpreted as evidence of a shocking bowling display whereas the attack may only have bowled three bad balls between them.

The ‘bouncing bat’ run out syndrome has also been eliminated. Now, if a batsman has grounded the bat in an attempt to avoid being run out or stumped but it has subsequently bounced in the air, the umpire must give him ‘not out’. And quite right, too.

One law which should have been changed in the 1980s (about the same time as it was absurdly introduced) is the rebound catch off a helmet worn by the wicket keeper or short leg. It was introduced by folk who were suspicious of ‘new technology’ and concerned that fielders might deliberately use their heads in order to gain an unfair advantage. Seriously! Those catches are now legal.

One of the lesser publicised changes is the introduction – voluntary rather than compulsory at this stage – of tethered bails. South Africans will always think of Mark Boucher when flying bails are mentioned but he is far from the only wicket keeper to suffer horrific eye injuries. The best method is still being finalised but early prototypes are using a 30 centimetre length of extra strong fishing line to attach the bails to the stumps thus allowing the wicket to be broken but preventing the bails flying into the ‘keeper’s face.

“Deliberate distraction, deception or obstruction” will now be penalised by the umpires – such as pretending to throw the ball at the stumps when the fielder has, in fact, missed it. Bowlers who field the ball off their own bowling and throw the ball at the batsmen will also be penalised five runs. There will be no ‘second warning’ for a bowler delivering a beamer – the second one will result in removal from the attack ofr the remainder of the innings.

Perhaps the best change of all concerns the DRS. At long last reviews will not be lost if the decision is ‘Umpires Call’. But, the caveat to that is that there will no longer be ‘top up’ reviews after 80 overs.

My only disappointment is that the ‘double bouncer’ will now be called ‘dead ball.’ The old law stated that a delivery would be called ‘dead’ if “it bounced more than twice.” That has now been changed to “…more than once.” Again, it makes sense but it will eliminate some of the great moments of humour in the game.

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