Jonny Bairstow’s fake attempt to make it look like he is going to run out Steve Smith on Day 2 of fifth Ashes Test on Friday has sparked a debate. The on-field umpires Marais Erasmus and Kumar Dharamsena did not feel the need to award five extra five runs under the fake fielding law which has been in existence in cricket rule books for almost two years.
The fake fielding law has the cricketing fans divided. Some feel the law is relevant as the attempts made by the fielder to deceive the batsman are unfair. On the other side, people feel that it provides another dynamic to the fielding as the fielder has a right to deceive the batsmen and save a run for his or her side.
— RaWon (@I2hav_voice) September 14, 2019
Australian cricketer Marnus Labuschagne was the first to break the new cricket rule in September 2017. Labuschagne tried to fake a throw without having the ball in hand to prevent a run in the JLT Cup (Australian domestic 50-over tournament).
Bairstow’s attempt to run out was much similar to former Sri Lankan skipper Kumar Sangakkara’s attempt in 2015 in an ODI against Pakistan. Sangakkara made Ahmed Shehzad dive for his wicket as he attempted to take the bails off the wicket despite the throw not reaching him. On both occasions, the wicketkeepers collected much after faking to remove the bails.
Here’s what Fraser Stewart, MCC’s Laws of Cricket manager had to say about it,
“The Sangakkara example is less clear-cut. Technically, he is deliberately attempting to deceive the batsman, but I’m not sure what advantage he is gaining – not that the gaining of an advantage needs to be proved. It seems to be done more out of jest than out of an attempt to cause confusion and prevent a run being scored. Under the letter of the Law, one could not argue with the penalty being imposed. Equally, however, an umpire might choose to handle it by having a quiet word and informing him of the new law. As with any law like this, it is always going to be for the umpires to decide what is “deliberate” and what is “deception”,” Stewart told espncricinfo.
Comparing it with Bairstow’s incident, he did not gain any advantage when he tried to deceive Smith. Whether the penalty five runs will be awarded depends on the on-field umpires’ judgement call.
However, it’s not just about a motive to save runs for the side. Umpires have to take into account that Smith could have jogged to his end to complete the run but instead, he felt his wicket was in danger and made a desperate dive which led to scratches on his elbow. At times, these attempts can lead to injuries which can be avoided if wicketkeepers waited to collect the ball and not make the batsmen hurry to make their ground.