Should Ollie Pope’s wonder catch of Daryl Mitchell have been struck down due to niche ‘encroachment’ law?
Ollie Pope conjured a catch for the ages by snaffling Daryl Mitchell’s forward prod from close range at silly point, during day two of the second New Zealand-England Test.
However, only a few noticed that a split-second before the catch, Pope’s right hand might have already gone towards the batter in anticipation, possibly even breaching a rare ‘encroachment’ law.
To start off, the Pope catch is brilliant: from anticipation, to the position he is in, to the actual reflexes, everything is top-notch. As soon as the ball pitches, Pope can be seen slightly shifting his weight. When Mitchell is about to tap the ball, Pope’s right hand seems to unfurl towards the target.
And that’s where the potential problem arises.
A closer look at the replays, and pausing at the right moment, shows that Pope’s right hand might have been inside the area called the pitch. Now, the Wellington surface is as green as any, but the distinction is still very much visible. And that’s where Law 28.5 kicks in. As pointed out on Twitter by Jonny Singer, MCC Laws of Cricket Advisor, a breach of the same would be a no ball.
No ball? pic.twitter.com/f0GlCgyo4M
— Jonny Singer (@Jonny_Singer) February 25, 2023
According to said Law, under ‘Fielders not to encroach on pitch’: “While the ball is in play and until the ball has made contact with the striker’s bat or person, or has passed the striker’s bat, no fielder, other than the bowler, may have any part of his/her person grounded on or extended over the pitch.
“In the event of infringement of this Law by any fielder other than the wicket-keeper, the bowler’s end umpire shall call and signal No ball as soon as possible after delivery of the ball.”
The question that follows is whether Pope’s hand did extend over the pitch. Based on the screenshot below, a split frame before Mitchell is making contact with the ball, Pope’s hand just about seems to extend over the perceived guideline of the pitch.
The umpires did not spot it or didn’t find it worthy of a second look. None of the players thought it was any issue. Pope’s wonder catch prevailed, but it was another reminder of the maze-like world of niche Laws, and why cricket can never be a simple game.