Watch: A controversial dismissal in Australia’s Sheffield Shield, with Baxter Holt given out caught by Marnus Labuschagne despite an apparent fumble, has sparked a debate over the ‘fair catch’ law in cricket.
The wicket brought to a close New South Wales’ innings against Queensland. Holt aimed a big shot at legspinner Mitchell Swepson, but only succeeded in skying a chance to Labuschagne, running backwards from the in-field. The Aussie Test No.3 gathered the ball before stumbling slightly, with the ball released tamely behind him as he did so.
Labuschagne didn’t look overly concerned about the legality of the catch, but nor did he celebrate hugely. Nevertheless, the umpires gave Holt out, and the innings came to a close.
The incident sparked significant debate on social media. Some felt that Labuschagne had held onto the ball for long enough, and released the ball deliberately.
Others cited Law 33.3, which states that “The act of making a catch shall start from the time when the ball first comes into contact with a fielder’s person and shall end when a fielder obtains complete control over both the ball and his/her own movement.” They wondered whether, with Labuschagne still stumbling, he could truly be claimed to be in “complete control over… his own movement” even if he did mean to release the ball when he did.
He needed to clearly have controll of the ball and his body. He's not even close to being in control of both at any point.
— Michael Wagener (@Mykuhl) April 4, 2021
Others cited a similar, famous incident in the 1999 World Cup, when Herschelle Gibbs was deemed to have dropped Steve Waugh after fluffing his attempt to throw the ball up in celebration.
Gibbs dropped the world cup
— Girish (@nirvana_76) April 4, 2021
A Wisden Cricket Twitter poll, still active at the time of writing, showed most observers favouring a ‘not out’ decision.
— Wisden (@WisdenCricket) April 4, 2021
For his part, Labuschagne seemed unfazed, reaching stumps 81 not out.
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