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Fake fielding in cricket: Clever or unfair? All you need to know

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Pakistan cricket team opener Fakhar Zaman’s controversial run-out in the second One Day International (ODI) against South Africa reignited a massive debate on the contentious fake fielding law in cricket.

Chasing 342 to win at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg, Fakhar Zaman smashed 193 runs off just 155 balls – the highest ever individual score in an ODI chase. It looked like he would take Pakistan home and seal the three-match ODI series when the incident happened.

The untimely end to Fakhar Zaman’s epic innings saw Pakistan fall short by 17 runs as the hosts levelled the three-match ODI series 1-1. However, the manner of Fakhar  Zaman’s dismissal -- Quinton de Kock having deceived the batsman --  has sparked outrage.

The Fakhar Zaman, Quinton de Kock fake fielding controversy

Requiring 31 runs in the last six balls, Fakhar Zaman drove Proteas pacer Lungi Ngidi to long-off in the first ball of the 50th over and came back for a second run.

Spotting an opportunity for a run-out, South Africa wicket-keeper Quinton de Kock seemingly signalled Aiden Markram to throw at the non-striker’s end even though the ball was already thrown. It convinced Zaman that he was safe at his end.

It was at this time that the Pakistani batsman turned around to check on his partner. Realising that the ball was instead coming at his end, the Pakistan batsman hurriedly attempted to slide his bat inside the crease. However, it was too little too late as Fakhar Zaman failed to complete the second run and was run-out.

Explained: What is fake fielding?

The Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), which is the custodian of the Laws of Cricket has provisioned law 41.5.1 to cover fake fielding, stating that “it is unfair for any fielder wilfully to attempt, by word or action, to distract, deceive or obstruct either batsman after the striker has received the ball”. According to clause 41.5.2, “It is for either one of the umpires to decide whether any distraction, deception or obstruction is wilful or not.”

In 2015, former Sri Lanka wicket-keeper batsman Kumar Sangakkara had deceived Pakistan’s Ahmed Shehzad during an ODI as he attempted to take the bails off even though the throw was yet to reach him. Interestingly though, the fake fielding law wasn’t a part of the ICC playing conditions during that time.

Similarly, in 2019, England wicket-keeper Jonny Bairstow had fooled Australia batsman Steve Smith into diving to make his ground as he pretended to receive a throw while Jofra Archer would collect the ball at the bowler's end. However, on-field umpires Marais Erasmus and Kumar Dharmasena didn’t take any action against Jonny Bairstow.

When was the fake fielding law introduced in cricket?

The fake fielding rule was Introduced in 2017 by the ICC. Queensland’s Marnus Labuschagne became the first player to be penalised for violating the fake fielding law in 2017 for trying to fake a throw without having the ball in hand to prevent a run in Australia’s domestic 50-over tournament.

What is the fake fielding penalty?

According to law 41.5.6, the bowler's end umpire shall award five penalty runs to the batting side and also inform the captain of the fielding side of the reason for this action.  The captain of the batting side is informed too, at the earliest opportunity available. Additionally, the ball shall not count as one of the over.

Meanwhile, the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) took to Twitter to explain the law, saying it is up to the umpire to decide whether the act of the fielder to distract the batter was willful or not.

“Law 41.5.1 states: “It is unfair for any fielder wilfully to attempt, by word or action, to distract, deceive or obstruct either batsman after the striker has received the ball,” MCC tweeted.

“The Law is clear, with the offence being an ATTEMPT to deceive, rather than the batsman actually being deceived. It’s up to the umpires to decide if there was such an attempt. If so, then it’s not out, 5 Penalty runs + the 2 they ran, and batsmen choose who faces next ball.”

Was Quinton de Kock guilty of violating the fake fielding rule?

South Africa limited-overs captain Temba Bavuma defended wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock for his role in the controversial run-out.

“It was quite clever from Quinny. Maybe some people might criticise it for maybe not being in the spirit of the game. But it was an important wicket for us. Zaman was getting close to our target. Yeah, it was clever from Quinny,” ESPNcricinfo quoted Bavuma as saying.

“You’ve always got to look for ways especially when things are not going your way, got to find ways to turn the momentum around. Quinny did that — I don’t think he broke the rules in any kind of way. It was a clever piece of cricket,” he added.

Fakhar Zaman had also said that Quinton de Kock did no mistake and it was only his fault that he was found short of the crease.

“The fault was mine as I was too busy looking out for Haris Rauf at the other end as I felt he’d started off a little late from his crease, so I thought he was in trouble. The rest is up to the match referee, but I don’t think it’s Quinton’s fault,” ESPNcricinfo quoted Zaman as saying.

Featured photo: Christiaan Kotze / AFP


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