'Dead ball' controversy adds to Strauss frustration

Finn punished for dislodging bails in his delivery after 'dismissing' Smith as England struggle in second Test

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The Independent Online

Representatives from the MCC will meet with the International Cricket Council (ICC) to ensure umpires are clear which protocols to follow when a bowler knocks over the bails in their delivery stride.

Umpire Steve Davis yesterday repeatedly called "dead ball" after England fast bowler Steven Finn had continued a habit, which has previously gone unpunished, of occasionally dislodging the bails with his knee as he delivered the ball.

South Africa batsmen Graeme Smith and Alviro Petersen both complained Finn's actions were distracting them after the Middlesex pace man unwittingly achieved the feat at least three times in his opening over.

Disastrously for the 23-year-old, his next over saw him once again dislodge the bails, leading Davis to call "dead ball" before Proteas captain Smith, on six at the time, nicked the ball to Andrew Strauss at first slip.

Strauss protested vehemently to the Australian umpire, telling him "it's going to happen every over" but Davis stood his ground and insisted he was within his right to make the call if he believed the batsmen were being distracted. Davis cited law 23.4 which states a dead ball can be called if "the striker is distracted by any noise or movement or in any other way while he is preparing to receive, or receiving a delivery. This shall apply whether the source of the distraction is within the game or outside it."

Finn proceeded to transgress three more times when bowling at Davis' end. Ironically, on two occasions Smith was denied a boundary as he thumped the ball to the fence only for Davis to rule he had been distracted and deem the strokes meaningless.

He went on to make 52 before Tim Bresnan had him caught by Ian Bell at square leg as South Africa made 262 for 5 by the close, Petersen unbeaten on 124.

Last night the MCC, the custodians of cricket's laws around the world, released a statement backing Davis' actions, while at the same time reiterating the decision was entirely subjective.

The statement read: "Jeff Crowe, ICC Match Referee, confirmed to MCC that Finn had broken the wicket at least three times prior to this specific incident. Both batsmen complained that it was a distraction and Finn was told to move over. The umpires decided that if it happened again they would call dead ball. It did and so Davis called it under 23.4(b)(vi).

"A precedent may have been set but it remains to be seen whether dead ball will be called on each occasion that this happens for the remainder of the match. Unlike some other Laws, there is no specified warning procedure for this situation. MCC's Laws sub-committee will discuss the matter at its next meeting and will work closely with ICC on issuing guidance to umpires."

Finn has been working with Middlesex bowling coach Richard Johnson in an attempt to eradicate the problem, which has previously caused nothing more than mild irritation, but has now cost him a Test wicket and caused an embarrassing furore he could have done without after being selected ahead of off-spinner Graeme Swann.

When Finn switched from the Kirkstall Lane end where Davis was standing to the Rugby Stand end where umpire Rod Tucker was standing he managed to avoid repeating the habit, but it was clear he would have been called had he transgressed at that end.

Last night Finn's fellow fast bowler James Anderson's insisted Finn had not been told he was at risk of being called for a "dead ball".

Anderson said: "That's not Finny's take on it. He said he was told to be careful because it was distracting the batsman but at no stage was he told it would be called 'dead ball' if he did it.

"It's a frustrating one for us, because he didn't actually warn us. We were slightly perplexed by that.

"It's strange that it's not been complained about before," Anderson added. "He's done it 100s of times but these two batsmen found it distracting.

"He's trying to get tight into the stumps and when his knee bends he touches the stumps. You'd think it would be more distracting to the bowler than the batter."

MCC statement

"Jeff Crowe, the match referee, confirmed to MCC that Finn had broken the wicket at least three times prior to this specific incident. Both batsmen complained that it was a distraction and Finn was told to move over. The umpires decided that if it happened again they would call dead ball. It did and so Davis called it under rule 23.4 (b) (vi)."

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