Sam Billings' superb outfield grab in England's T20 match against the Prime Minister's XI has drawn confusion, applause and disapproval in equal measure among cricket fans on social media.
Billings caught James Faulkner in the deep at Manuka Oval and, as momentum was about to take him over the rope, he tossed the ball into the air. After running over the boundary, he then turned and jumped from outside the rope, caught the ball while still in the air and then landed back in the field of play.
Five years ago, the catch would have been illegal, however an October 2013 update to the Laws of cricket means the Englishman was judicious in his decision-making under pressure.
The key points of Law 32.3 are, according to the MCC, as follows:
- The key part, in terms of positioning, is the fielder’s first contact with the ball during the passage of play.
- The fielder's first contact with the ball must be made inside the boundary. If he is airborne when making this first contact, he must have taken off from within the boundary.
- The ball then can be fielded or caught, as long as the fielder is never in contact with both the ball and the ground outside the boundary at the same time.
- So, on a second or third contact with the ball, the fielder can jump up from beyond the boundary and parry it back inside. He can do this as many times as he wants, as long as he is never in contact with the ground beyond the boundary while he is touching the ball.
The rule has caused controversy in the past, most famously involving Glenn Maxwell, who took a classic catch at Headingley in an ODI against England back in September 2015 by utilising his knowledge of the rule.
Maxwell's intimate understanding of the Law had come about eight months earlier, when he took to Twitter to criticise a catch from then Sydney Thunder player Josh Lalor in the KFC Big Bash after the player jumped from beyond the boundary rope back into the field of play.
Chastened to discover the catch was in fact legal, Maxwell showed he had not forgotten the lesson later that year, as he completed a similar if altogether more acrobatic and stunning catch that traversed the boundary rope on the international stage.
When it came to Billings' catch, it was clear that the rule remained a vagary in the game, with plenty on social media questioning the legality.
Others suggested the Law should be changed, however given the update came about in order to provide the best outfield catchers with a greater opportunity to display their wares on the rope, it appears a return to the original rule is unlikely.
Gillette T20 trans-Tasman Tri-Series
Australia squad: David Warner (c), Aaron Finch (vc), Ashton Agar, Alex Carey, Ben Dwarshuis, Travis Head, Chris Lynn, Glenn Maxwell, Kane Richardson, D'Arcy Short, Billy Stanlake, Marcus Stoinis, Andrew Tye, Adam Zampa.
England squad: Eoin Morgan (c), Sam Billings, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Liam Dawson, Alex Hales, Chris Jordan, Dawid Malan, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, James Vince, David Willey, Mark Wood.
New Zealand squad: Kane Williamson (c), Tom Blundell, Trent Boult, Tom Bruce, Colin de Grandhomme, Martin Guptill, Anaru Kitchen, Colin Munro, Seth Rance, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Ben Wheeler.
First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Tickets
Second T20I Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Tickets
Third T20I Australia v England, MCG, February 10. Tickets
Fourth T20I NZ v England, Wellington, February 14
Fifth T20I NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16
Sixth T20I NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18
Final TBC, Eden Park, February 21