Steven Smith took a great catch to dismiss Fawad Alam in the third One-Day International (ODI) between Pakistan and Australia at Abu Dhabi. The catch did cause some controversy as Smith moved towards the leg-side from first-slip when Alam was readying himself to play the sweep. However, with the new playing conditions in effect, this catch was fair. Nishad Pai Vaidya analyses Smith’s catch. 

Steven Smith’s catch of Fawad Alam during the third One-Day International (ODI) between Pakistan and Australia caused some controversy. Smith saw Alam position himself for the sweep off Xavier Doherty and moved from first-slip towards the leg-slip. Alam guided the ball fine and by then Smith had made enough ground to take the catch. The Pakistan batsman stood his ground, but the officials upheld the verdict and he had to make his way back to the dressing room.

According to the laws of cricket, Smith’s catch is fair as a fielder isn’t allowed to make a significant movement before the ball has reached the striker. 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.”

The main question that arises is: How does one define “significant movement”? The laws have that answer. Law 41.8 (a) says: “For close fielders anything other than minor adjustments to stance or position in relation to the striker is significant.” But according to a new playing condition that has come into play on October 1, 2014, Smith’s catch is fair. A fielder is allowed to make the movement if the batsman is in position to play his shot early. Dean Jones tweeted about it:

 

The International Cricket Council (ICC) issued a clarification on October 13, 2014. They said that the following interpretation in force: “As long as the movement of a close catching fielder is in response to the striker’s actions (the shot he/she is about to play or shaping to play), then movement is permitted before the ball reaches the striker. On the day, if umpires believe any form of significant movement is unfair (in an attempt to deceive the batsman), then the Law still applies”.

Let us have a look at it frame by frame. Cricket Australia had tweeted these images immediately after the catch.

Steven Smith is in position at first slip and Fawad Alam is getting ready to face the ball.
Steven Smith is in position at first slip and Fawad Alam is getting ready to face the ball. Photo Courtesy: Cricket Australia’s Twitter account.

Photo 1: Here is the point of delivery. Smith is standing at first slip as Doherty comes from around the wicket. Alam has taken his stance and is ready to face the ball:

Fawad Alam is getting ready to play the sweep and Steven Smith has commenced his dash.
Fawad Alam is getting ready to play the sweep and Steven Smith has commenced his dash. Photo Courtesy: Cricket Australia’s Twitter account.

Photo 2: In the second frame, you can see Alam getting in position to play the sweep. Smith had noticed Alam making that adjustment and has commenced his charge towards leg-slip. The wicketkeeper Haddin, was unaware of the events transpiring behind him. Just as the ball is about to pitch, Smith is ready to make the run. We can say that Alam is in position early.

Fawad Alam has played the sweep and Steven Smith has one foot on the leg-side, getting ready to take the catch.
Fawad Alam has played the sweep and Steven Smith has one foot on the leg-side, getting ready to take the catch. Photo Courtesy: Cricket Australia’s Twitter account.

 

Photo 3: In this frame, we can see that Alam has played that sweep and is in fact hit high on the bat as the ball climbed a touch. Smith is just behind Haddin with one foot on the leg-side and has his eyes on the ball. This was the best position for Smith as all he had to do was react to what happened next.

 

The catch is taken!
A brilliant  catch is taken! Photo Courtesy: Cricket Australia’s Twitter account.

Photo 4: Alam played the sweep squarer than Smith hoped for. Nevertheless, he still showed great athleticism and made it look quite easy and took the catch. This is a reflection of Smith’s ability as a fieldsman. In the Indian Premier League (IPL), he has already shown great prowess, effecting some wonderful saves and taking great catches.

Here is something similar done by Brendon McCullum in a Test match against India in 2009. Remember, he was the wicketkeeper then:

Had Smith taken such a catch before October 1, 2014, it would have been ruled not out as the playing conditions would have deemed it unfair going by the laws in place. Smith showed great presence of mind on this occasion and well as they say: Fortune favours the brave.  

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(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_45)