Verdict? © Getty Images
Verdict? © Getty Images

Matthew Hayden had made stepping out of the crease to fast bowlers fashionable before the current era of power-hitting.In fact, Hayden used to advance down the pitch when the bowler was still in his long run-up. Decades before Hayden, George Gunn of Nottinghamshire and England used to stand outside the crease.

There must have been other exponents of this as well. Some batsmen do not bother to step out: they simply stand outside the crease to pace, for they know that the probability of getting stumped off a genuine pacer was extremely low.

One thing is for certain: such strategy must be annoying for the pace bowler, perhaps making him lose temper. Our case involves a mercurial fast bowler of the sort.

Let us revert to our old friends Khan and Smith, whom we have encountered several times in our umpiring conundrums series.

Khan has that irritating habit of stepping out when fast bowlers begin their run-ups, and he has been doing the same throughout the match to Smith. Smith, the ubiquitous temperamental hot-headed fast bowler, finally lost his cool.

Thus, when Khan stood outside the crease once too many, Smith continued with his run-up till he reached the stumps. However, instead of delivering the ball, he threw it towards the wicket at the striker’s end. It was an accurate throw, and Khan was unable to return to the crease before it rattled the stumps.

What should be the umpire’s verdict?

The answer is below, but let me tell you about a real match where something like this had happened, back in 1906-07, whenTeddy Wynyard’s MCC team toured New Zealand. This amateur-only side consisted of the likes of Johnny Douglas and cricket’s last great underarm bowler, George Simpson-Hayward.

They played Otago twice, at Carisbrook, Dunedin, and won both matches by massive margins. In the second of these, James Baker of Otago stepped out frequently enough to get under the skin of Percy May. A bowler of genuine pace, May had a decent career for Cambridge and Surrey.

Baker “stood several yards out of his ground”when May was bowling. May retaliated by halting during his run-up abruptly and throwing the ball at Baker. It is not known whether May hit the stumps, or even if he did, he found Baker outside the crease. But then, it did not matter.

You see, the ball ceased to be dead the moment May started his run-up (in other words, the delivery had begun). May might have hurled the ball from behind the crease, but bowling from behind the crease was perfectly legal — Saqlain Mushtaq often did that to fox batsmen. There is no law on the maximum distance from which one can bowl.

But then, May threw the ball at Baker, which made all the difference. He became the 32nd bowler in the history of First-Class cricket to be no-balled for chucking.

Poor Smith would have faced the same.