Smith grab sparks controversy

New laws allow catch to stand in Abu Dhabi

Steve Smith's brilliant piece of anticipatory fielding to sprint from slip to take a catch on the leg side in the third one-day international against Pakistan tonight sparked a raging debate about the legality of the dismissal.

With everyone that is, except the Australian team.

While the cricket-watching world caught up with events, discovering that the ICC Match Officials were working to a new version of playing conditions based on "revised intent" of a rule that has yet to be re-written, captain George Bailey and his team knew exactly what they were doing.

Fielding at first slip to the left-arm spin of Xavier Doherty, Smith bolted to the leg-side when he saw Pakistan batsman Fawad Alam shape to lap sweep as the ball travelled to the batsman.

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Smith’s instincts were vindicated when Alam swept the ball straight to the lurking fielder and the Australians celebrated the dismissal.

On-field umpires Ahsan Raza and Richard Illingworth consulted mid-pitch, and checked with third official Nigel Llong before eventually giving the batsman out.

"I could tell there was confusion because the umpires came together," said Bailey.

"We knew the rule had changed … and to be honest, as it should.

"As a batsman you're allowed to switch-hit, you're allowed to do whatever you like.

"All he's done is anticipate where the ball's going to go.

"As a cricket lover, you're just moving well in the field aren't you?

"It would be really sad if that went out of the game because I think that's a spectacle. That's a great thing to be able to see."

Prior to this series, Smith's catch would not have been legal. However, has seen the ICC Match Officials' ODI Almanac 2014/15, which says umpires must work to a "revised intent" of an anticipated future rewording of Law 41.7.

The ODI Almanac sets the playing conditions for all one-day internationals for the 2014-15 season and was first used in the Pakistan-Australia series.

While the Australians were armed with knowledge, Pakistan batsman Alam protested, and stood at the boundary rope in animated discussion with reserve umpire Shozab Raza before eventually crossing with an angry swipe of his bat.

According to the currently published Laws of Cricket, Law 41.7 states:

"Any significant movement by any fielder after the ball comes into play, and before the ball reaches the striker, is unfair. In the event of such unfair movement, either umpire shall call and signal Dead ball."

"Significant movement" is defined for a slips fielder in Law 41.8 (a), which states:

"For close fielders anything other than minor adjustments to stance or position in relation to the striker is significant."


The application of this Law would mean Smith's catch should not have been a dismissal.

However, the ICC Match Officials' ODI Almanac, which has been inspected by, states that the "MCC has varied its position around significant movement according to the timing of when a close catching fielder can move".

The passage goes on to state: "They will be redrafting this Law when next a rewrite occurs, so we are going to apply the revised intent that is in keeping with the games' progress.

That "revised intent" changes the definition of "significant movement" to the following:

"As long as the movement of a close catching fielder is in response to the striker's actions (the shot he is about to play or shaping to play), then movement is permitted before the ball reaches the striker."

However, the passage also offers ambiguity leaving it up to the on-field umpires to decide if the movement is unfair.

"On the day, if the umpires believe any form of significant movement is unfair (in an attempt to deceive the batsman), then the Law still applies."

As Smith was standing at slip, outside of Alam's eyeline when he made his move, the question still remains was his movement unfair or an attempt to "deceive the batsman"?