Steve Smith defends Australia after Ben Stokes obstruction dismissal angers England

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New Australia captain Steve Smith is adamant his team acted fairly in making their successful appeal for Ben Stokes to be out obstructing the field, and says it is “disappointing” his England counterpart Eoin Morgan declared he would have withdrawn the appeal if he were in charge.

Stokes on Saturday became only the seventh player in the history of international cricket to be adjudged out for obstructing the field, as Australia beat England by 65 runs at Lord’s to move to a 2-0 lead in their one-day series.

Stokes was outside his crease after blocking a delivery from Mitch Starc back down the pitch. As the bowler picked up the ball and threw it at the stumps Stokes, holding his bat in his right hand, swivelled to his right stretching for safety. As he did so, however, he lifted his left hand, and in the process blocked the ball from hitting the stumps.

Australia wicketkeeper Matthew Wade immediately appealed from behind the wicket, and was gradually joined by bowler Starc and other teammates.

Presiding umpire Kumar Dharmasena referred the decision to third umpire Joel Wilson. The footage showed that while Stokes had little time to react as Starc threw the ball from mid-pitch he was well inside the trajectory of the ball and was not in danger of being struck . The West Indies umpire decided Stokes had been guilty of obstructing the field, as Wade and the Australians had appealed.

The decision brought howls of disapproval from the typically genteel crowd at Lord’s, the undisputed home of cricket and where the game’s laws are formulated.

England captain Morgan, who was at the other end, also seemed to register his displeasure with the decision with the umpires – and with Smith for going along with the appeal. Morgan later said Dharmasena had told him he and fellow on-field umpire Tim Robinson “didn’t think it was out – and the third umpire has disagreed”.

Morgan was insistent after the match Stokes should not have been given out under law 37, arguing his reaction in lifting his hand as he tried to get back to his crease “wasn’t deliberate” and was instead done to “protect himself”.

“I feel that the ball was thrown so fast that you can only react in a way that defends yourself and he put his hand up to protect himself and followed the ball . . . how you can interpret is open, but certainly I didn’t think it was deliberate,” he said after the match.

Morgan was also adamant he would not have allowed such a review to proceed had England been in the field.

Smith labelled not only Morgan’s stance disappointing but also that of the Lord’s spectators, who booed Starc and other Australians throughout the match.

“The umpires are there to do a job and when it went upstairs to Joel Wilson the third umpire he made the same decision as we saw,” he said.

Smith said he had not given any consideration to withdrawing the appeal, and confirmed it was led by wicketkeeper Wade.

“‘Wadey’ had a good view of it behind the stumps. He said straight away that he thought the ball was missing ‘Stokesy’ and it was going to hit the stumps, so he appealed and we went upstairs and the umpire gave it out,” he said. “The way I saw it was he was out of his ground and he wilfully put his hand out, which is [against] the rule I’ve been told, and he got given out by the umpire.”

Smith said he did not ask Stokes if raising his hand had been accidental, because he felt he had not needed to. He also said he had made his views to Morgan clear at the time of the incident.

“I was just saying he was out of his ground and he put his hand in the way of the stumps. I put it into perspective I guess, I said it’s the same as me coming back for a two and turning around and putting my hand out. It just looked worse because it went back to the bowler and it all happened so quickly. I think that’s the same thing,” he said.

While Morgan reiterated how much he disagreed with Smith’s “interpretation” of the incident he stressed it was not the reason England lost the match, being bowled out for 245 after Australia made 7-309 after being made to bat first after a drizzly morning in London.

“I think we probably let ourselves down early on with the ball, we weren’t disciplined enough,” he said. “I think it [pitch] offered a small bit, not a great deal but a small bit, that if we’d made early inroads it might have put more pressure on Australia . . . from there they built a really good one-day innings.”

“I’ve pretty much said everything and I think he’s heard me say everything, so we’ve just got to move on and hopefully continue playing the way both teams have played throughout the summer, I think we’ve played some really entertaining cricket and hopefully we can keep doing that for the next couple of matches.”

 

LAW 37 OBSTRUCTING THE FIELD

1. Out Obstructing the field

Either batsman is out Obstructing the field if he wilfully obstructs or distracts the fielding side by word or action. Furthermore, it shall be regarded as obstruction if while the ball is in play either batsman wilfully, and without the consent of a fielder, strikes the ball with his bat or person, other than a hand not holding the bat, after the ball has been touched by a fielder. This shall apply whether or not there is any disadvantage to the fielding side.

2. Accidental obstruction.

It is for either umpire to decide whether any obstruction or distraction is wilful or not. He shall consult the other umpire if he has any doubt.

 

BATSMEN DISMISSED FOR OBSTRUCTING THE FIELD

Len Hutton (Eng), for 27 in Test vs SAf at The Oval, London, in Aug 1951.

Rameez Raja (Pak), for 99 in ODI vs Eng in Karachi in Nov 1987.

Monhinder Amarnath (Ind), for 28 in ODI vs SL in Ahmedabad in Oct 1989.

Inzamam-ul-Haq (Pak), for 15 in ODI vs Ind in Peshawar in Feb 2006.

Mohammed Hafeez (Pak), for 0 in ODI vs SAf in Durban in Mar 2013.

Anwar Ali (Pak), for 7 in ODI vs SAf in Port Elizabeth in Nov 2013.

Ben Stokes (Eng), for 10 in ODI vs Aus at Lord’s, London, in Sep 2015.