LONDON: One team’s agony turned out to be another’s ecstasy. After so many twists and turns involving two spectacular ties, the World Cup final between England and New Zealand was decided by the notorious rule book of the Marylebone Cricket Club that, interestingly, hosted the players in its storied pavilion on an eventful Sunday.
England were declared the new world champions for having scored more number of boundaries than New Zealand after the Super Over, too, ended in a tie.
However, it has emerged that a blatant error from on-field umpires has robbed New Zealand of what would have been a well-deserved title.
The most poignant moment of the gripping final came in the fourth ball of the final over of regulation play. England needed nine runs off last three balls. In a desperate attempt to retain the strike, Ben Stokes sprinted back to wicketkeeper’s end even as the fielder Martin Guptill released the ball from the midwicket. As Stokes divided to complete the run, the ball struck his bat and deflected towards the boundary. Stokes got six runs apart from the two collected and the equation was reduced to three off two balls.
Former international umpire Simon Taufel, who is now a part of the MCC’s laws sub-committee that makes the rules governing cricket, has pointed out that Kumar Dharmasena made an “error of judgement” in applying the rule. According to Taufel, Dharmsena should have awarded England only five runs apart from keeping Stokes at the non-striker’s end. As the batsmen had not crossed for their second run when Guptill threw the ball, one run should not have counted, the Australian argued.
Video replays uphold Taufel’s view about the attempted second run at the instant Guptill threw — Adil Rashid and Stokes had not yet crossed for their second run when Guptill released the ball from the deep. “It’s a clear mistake.. it’s an error of judgment. They (England) should have been awarded five runs, not six,” Taufel, a five-time ICC Umpire of the Year, told foxsports.com.au.
Echoing Taufel’s view was former Indian umpire K. Hariharan. “Kumar Dharmasena killed the World Cup for New Zealand. It should have been five runs not six,” he said.
The ICC refused to make a comment with a spokesperson simply saying, “The umpires take decisions in the field of play with their interpretations of the rules and we don’t comment on any decisions as a matter of policy.”
Law 19.8 of the ICC rules, pertaining to ‘Overthrow or wilful act of fielder’, states: “If the boundary results from an overthrow or from the wilful act of a fielder, the runs scored shall be any runs for penalties awarded to either side, and the allowance for the boundary, and the runs completed by the batsmen, together with the run in progress if they had already crossed at the instant of the throw or act.”
“...the umpires needed to check if at the point of throw the two batsmen had crossed each other or not. If we see that replay, when the throw came, the two batsmen had barely started the second run,” Hariharan observed.
“That run can never be counted. It was duty of square leg umpire (Marius) Erasmus to consult the TV umpire and change the decision. Stokes shouldn’t have been on strike next ball,” he added.
However, on-field umpires Kumar Dharmasena and Marais Erasmus added six runs to England total following the incident -- four runs for the ball reaching the boundary plus two for running between the wickets by the batsmen.
Taufel also defended the officials. “In the heat of what was going on, they thought there was a good chance the batsmen had crossed at the instant of the throw,” he said.
“Obviously TV replays showed otherwise. The difficulty you (umpires) have here is you’ve got to watch batsmen completing runs, then change focus and watch for the ball being picked up, and watch for the release (of the throw). You also have to watch where the batsmen are at that exact moment,” Taufel added.
He acknowledged the call “influenced the game” but added, “It’s unfair on England, New Zealand and the umpires involved to say it decided the outcome”.
New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson preferred not to add fuel to the controversy. “The rule has been there for a long time. I don’t think anything like that’s happened where you now question it. But look, it’s — you can’t sort of look at that and think that perhaps that decided the match,” he said.
“There were so many other bits and pieces to that game that were so important. When it comes down to a tie, you start looking at every single delivery, don’t you? It was a pretty tough pill to swallow,” Williamson added.
England captain Eoin Morgan wasn’t sure what had happened. “He dived and there was dust everywhere and the ball deflected through and all the Black Caps standing around going “What’s going on?” So I was trying to figure out, did he hit it, did the keeper hit it? I was trying to stay in the moment. I wasn’t celebrating. It is not something you celebrate or cheer,” said Morgan.
Another notorious rule that put paid to the hopes of Kiwis was the tie-breaker rule of counting back boundaries scored. Is that a fair way of deciding a World Cup final? “The rules are there I guess, aren’t they, and certainly something you don’t consider going into the match,” said Williamson.
“While the emotions are raw it is pretty hard to swallow when two teams have worked really hard to get to this moment in time and when sort of two attempts to separate them with a winner and a loser it still doesn’t perhaps sort of shine with one side coming through, you know,” added Williamson.
Morgan said players have no control over the rules. “If you could give me an alternative, I’d be able to... like compare the both. But I can’t think of an alternative at the moment. The rules are obviously set out a long time ago and we have no control over them.”