Cricket 2020: third umpire front foot no balls for Women’s T20 World Cup
This Thursday marks the four-year anniversary of the most controversial front-foot no ball in cricket’s history.
On February 12th in 2016, Australia commenced their opening Test of the two-match series against New Zealand in Wellington.
After they were rolled for 183 on day one, the Black Caps made early inroads in the field, cheaply dismissing openers Joe Burns and David Warner.
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But late in the final session, New Zealand had another breakthrough — or so they thought.
Batsman Adam Voges was on seven when he left a length delivery from paceman Doug Bracewell, which crashed into his off stump. However, umpire Richard Illingworth had his right arm outstretched, calling a no ball for overstepping.
Unbeknown to the players of the field, television replays exposed Illingworth’s horrific error of judgement. Bracewell’s foot was not even marginally close to overstepping — he had at least an inch of breathing room.
The mistake would have been less disheartening for the New Zealanders if not for what followed — Voges batted for another 115 overs, accumulating 239 runs and guiding Australia to a 379-run first innings lead.
On that fateful day, former Test opener Chris Rogers labelled the decision “horrific” and called for cricket to use technology more effectively.
“I don’t understand it, why can we not get these decisions right? There’s enough time for the third umpire to change the decision,” Rogers told Optus Sport’s Across the Ditch.
“We keep seeing these incidents happen, why can we not embrace technology and get it right every time?”
Almost four years later, Rogers finally got his wish.
On Wednesday, the International Cricket Council announced the introduction of front-foot technology for the upcoming T20 Women’s World Cup.
After a recent trial during an ODI series between India and the West Indies, it was decided the third umpire will monitor the landing foot of bowlers after each ball and communicate to their on-field counterparts whether it was a legal delivery.
It’s a drastic change for the sport, as on-field umpires will not call any front-foot no balls unless advised by their colleague in the box. They will no longer have to simultaneously monitor where the bowler’s front foot lands and whatever occurs at the other end of the wicket.
It had already been the norm for third umpires to check whether a bowler overstepped after a wicket, but not for every ball.
Umpires are regularly criticised for missing a stack of no balls in Test cricket — during Australia’s first Test against Pakistan at the Gabba, the umpires missed 21 no balls in two sessions, eventually denying 16-year-old prodigy Naseem Shah his first international wicket.
In January, former Australian captain Ricky Ponting called the front-foot no ball dilemma an “epidemic” in the sport.
“Without pointing the finger at anybody … I’m not having it for one minute that umpires are looking down at that front line,” Ponting said after the no-ball in Channel 7 commentary.
“It’s an epidemic around the world at the moment.”
ICC general manager of cricket Geoff Allardice is “confident” the change will help reduce the number of errors in professional cricket.
“No-balls are difficult for umpires to call accurately, and even though the percentage of deliveries that are no balls is low, it is important to call them correctly,” Allardice said.
“I’m confident that this technology will reduce the small number of front-foot no-ball errors at the ICC women’s T20 World Cup.”
When the technology was recently trialled, 4717 valls were bowled in 12 matches, all judged accurately by the third umpire. Interestingly, only 0.28 per cent of the deliveries were no balls.
“Since we first trialled this concept in the ODI series between England and Pakistan in 2016 the technology has improved significantly, enabling us to introduce it cost-effectively, and with minimum impact on the flow of the game,” Allardice said.
Remember when the ICC said they couldn't deploy the TV ump to assess no-balls because it was... too expensive? Yeah, right. More like, they don't want that gig. And fair enough. So I keep saying it: time for SPECIALIST TV UMPIRES. #SAvENG— Adam Collins (@collinsadam) January 4, 2020
Financial costs were blamed for the not introducing the new method in the past, but Channel 7 cricket presenter Trent Copeland argued the change was becoming “non-negotiable”.
“It’s a glaringly obvious thing that had to change and it’s great the ICC has taken action,” Copeland told AAP.
“I know there’s financial hurdles … But my question is always is this important or not? Is it important the ICC has games that function well, correct decisions?
“If the answer is yes, and I think they’d be hard-pressed to say no, then it’s something we have to find money for.”
It’s dangerous to start considering what incorrect calls would have been overturned if this tecnology had been implemented earlier — New Zealand spinner Daniel Vettori famously overstepped when he dismissed Shane Warne for 99, caught at deep mid wicket in 2001.
Warne remains the highest run-scorer of all Test cricketers to never reach a century.
The women’s T20 World Cup commences February 21st with a clash between Australia and India at Sydney Olympic Park.
Originally published as ‘Epidemic’ finally solved after four years