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Watch: The controversial Michael Vaughan ‘handled the ball’ dismissal that was the last of its kind in Tests

Handled the ball
by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

Watch: Michael Vaughan was the last person to be dismissed under the erstwhile handled the ball dismissal in Test cricket, after losing his wicket controversially against India in the 2001 Bangalore Test.

The incident happened during the third Test of England’s tour of India in 2001/02. Vaughan was batting on 64 when he tried to sweep spinner Sarandeep Singh but missed the ball. The ball went up before lodging between his glove and left leg, and trickling down towards the pitch. Even as the India keeper Deep Dasgupta scrambled to get hold, the ball dropped on the pitch. Vaughan immediately picked it up and rolled it to the side of the pitch.

Instantly, Sarandeep turned around and appealed to the umpire, who promptly gave him out under the prevalent ‘handled the ball’ law. In 2017, the dismissal was incorporated into the obstructing the field dismissal.

The Law 33 of the MCC’s Laws of Cricket at the time read:

33.1 Out Handled the Ball

“The striker is out Handled the ball if, except in the circumstances of 2 below, in the act of playing a ball delivered by the bowler, he wilfully strikes the ball with a hand not holding the bat. This will apply whether No ball has been called or not and whether it is the first strike or a second or subsequent strike.

The act of playing the ball shall also encompass both playing at the ball and striking the ball more than once in defence of his wicket.”

The exceptions to the above were the dismissals that came under obstructing the field or if the batter was looking to avoid injury.

While the India players were pleased, Vaughan was aghast, so was non-striker Mark Ramprakash.

One of the commentators said, “Michael Vaughan can’t believe it. What he’s done is, he has actually given the ball to short-leg and knocked it away with his hand. It didn’t look to me as though it was rolling onto the stumps. But the Indians have appealed, and under the law, he can be given out handling the ball.”

Vaughan stated after the day’s play that he felt that passing the ball to the fielder was the “right thing to do”, adding that India’s actions were “probably against the spirit of the game”.

“I understand that, in the laws of the game, it is out. I am a bit disappointed that someone in the team appealed, and obviously, the umpire had to give me out.” Vaughan said, explaining his position, “It was lodged between my arm and the pad first. The ball was only going one way, and that was forward. I was just a bit bemused by the whole situation and didn’t quite know what to do. Obviously, as soon as the umpire puts his finger up, you’ve got to go.”

Vaughan went on to add that the England skipper at the time, Nasser Hussain, told him that he would’ve probably called the batter back, had he been the captain making the call.

“It’s a question of whether certain actions are in the spirit of the game and that’s purely a judgment call,” Hussain told Wisden.com, “If the Indians felt that the appeal was in the spirit of the game then that’s their call. I know what my gut feeling and Michael’s gut feeling is about it all, and I really don’t want to say any more.”

Sourav Ganguly, the then India skipper, felt otherwise, “I did not think of recalling him. It was a reflex appeal: Sarandeep appealed instantly.”

Denis Lindsay, the match referee too backed the decision by the umpire AV Jayaprakash, saying: “It’s very explicit in the laws of the game.”

Interestingly, the previous instance of ‘handled the ball’ before this dismissal had taken place in the same year, and that too in India. Australia skipper Steve Waugh was given out in this fashion in Chennai.

You can watch the dismissal here:

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