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County Championship 2022

Novel ECB playing condition sees county batter ruled ‘not out’ despite helmet hitting stumps

by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

Ben Compton was allowed to continue his innings in Kent’s County Championship clash against Surrey despite his helmet hitting the stumps and dislodging the bails.

He had a novel ECB playing condition to thank, introduced ahead of the 2020 Bob Willis Trophy, to encourage batters to protect themselves at the crease.

The incident occurred in the 35th over of Kent’s first innings, with Compton unbeaten on 44. He attempted to duck a sharp Jamie Overton bouncer, only for the ball to strike and dislodge his helmet, which fell onto the stumps and dislodged the bails.

Surrey celebrated, and looked frustrated when the umpires conferred and ruled Compton not out, resuming his innings after receiving a new helmet.

However, the correct decision was reached, with the ECB having introduced an alteration to the MCC’s Laws of Cricket ahead of the 2020 first-class season. The adjustment affected the ‘Wicket put down’ law, which in turn influences the ‘Hit wicket’ law. Law 29.1.1.4 states that the wicket can be put down “by any part of [the striker’s] clothing or equipment becoming detached from his/her person” meaning that ordinarily, a batter’s helmet falling onto the stumps would incur a hit wicket dismissal.

The ECB’s addition states that “any detached equipment shall not include the striker’s protective helmet, or any part thereof”, with Compton therefore rightly adjudicated not out.

Speaking in 2021, Andy Fordham, the ECB’s operations manager, explained the change. “If a batsman’s helmet becomes dislodged, or a part of it becomes dislodged – most likely its neck protection – and breaks the wicket, the batsman would be protected by the regulation change,” he said.

“If we were playing purely by law, then that would be out, but we are protecting the batsman and that arises from the fact that it’s mandated that you need to wear a helmet, and we want to encourage as much protection for batsmen as possible.”

The ECB tweak only affects professional non-international cricket played in England and Wales, meaning that, had the Compton incident come in another competition, a different decision may have been reached. Fordham, who sits on the MCC’s Laws sub-committee, suggested it might become a universal Law.

“Its status at the moment is it isn’t law,” he said. “It may become law but that will be an MCC decision, but we’ve cracked on with it because we think it’s the right thing to do.”

As of right now, the change is yet to make its way to the MCC’s Laws, but a similar alteration will come into effect from October 2022, with the organisation having announced a series of adjusted laws which will come into action then.

Compton’s reprieve was a short lived one, with the in-form opener dismissed by Will Jacks three overs later, having added three runs to his total.

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