Well, well, what have we here? © Getty Images
Well, well, what have we here? © Getty Images

There can be some situations in cricket, very legitimate ones, that might confuse the most diligent followers of the game. In this series we look at several such scenarios. In this particular episode Arunabha Sengupta asks a question about an improbable but not impossible scenario that can crop up in cricket.

It was George Cox, the old Sussex batsman, who claimed to have come across this remarkable case during a village cricket encounter. He narrated it to Arthur Gilligan, the former captain of England, and the latter jotted it down in his series of cricketing conundrums in the 1939 edition of the Wisden Almanac.

The batting side required 50 runs for victory with 9 wickets down in their second innings and there was time for only one more over. The last man was facing the ball, a complete rabbit, and he managed to survive the first ball, and then the second, and then the third … and so on till there was only one ball left to be bowled. Each delivery saw the batsman beaten all ends up, but somehow through the benevolence of chance, he managed to survive.

The final ball was now about to be bowled. The bowler ran up, and after waiting for the delivery stride, the batsman threw away his bat and turned to hold on to the bails with his hands. He kept his legs away from the line, and the ball snicked the off-stump before travelling to slip. But since the bails were held down, they were not dislodged.

The batsman, removing his hands from the bails, now picked up his bat, smiled, and said, “Well, that’s a draw.” Indeed, with the bails firmly upon the stumps, there was no way that the batsman could be given out bowled.

And since the bails had not fallen, the batsman could not be given out hit wicket either … even though he had touched the woodwork.

The bemused fielders appealed, and the umpire, totally confused, scratched his head.

As everyone wondered what was to be the decision, the batsman drove home his point by stating, “There is nothing in the rules which says that a batsman cannot hold on to his bails.” Indeed.

In this case, according to Cox, and thereby Gilligan, the umpire gave the batsman out for unfair play.

But, is it a loophole? Well, what do you think? If the batsman was indeed out, was it because of unfair play, or was it obstructing the field?

And why do you think not many number elevens have been innovative enough to tackle the final delivery in this ingenious manner?