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Explained: When is ball deemed under control while taking a catch? What is the law and why there is confusion?

What does the laws say? A lot of times, such decisions have gone in batting team's favour. Do third umpires also make mistakes? Know all the details here...

Written By: Aditya Kukalyekar New Delhi Published on: July 06, 2023 16:22 IST
Mitchell Starc, Ben Duckett, Ashes, Ashes 2023
Image Source : GETTY Mitchell Starc had claimed this catch to dismiss Ben Duckett

Cricket Laws vs Spirit of the game is the debate that is going on ever since the Lord's Test between England and Australia has ended, especially after the Jonny Bairstow dismissal. To be fair, England's frailties have been convered and unattended by all the controversy after the Test match. While Bairstow's stumping dismissal has hogged all the limelight, one more dismissal had sparked controversy earlier in the match involving Mitchell Starc.

The incident took place late on the fourth day of the Test match when Ben Duckett toe-ended an upper cut only for Mitchell Starc to claim the catch at fine leg. The Australian fielder took the catch and scraped the ball along the turf while sliding. Duckett had started to walk at first but soon the on-field umpires stopped him and took the matter to the third umpire.

After looking at several replays, the third umpire Marais Erasmus deemed that the ball was not under control of Starc while taking the catch. The batter was adjudged not out and that followed a furore as well. Australia, understandably, were bemused with even their skipper Pat Cummins having an animated conversation with the on-field umpires. Former Australia cricketer Glenn McGrath ripped apart the decision as well criticising the umpire.

However, if we look at the law 33.3, it clearly states: 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.

The ball is not allowed to touch the ground before and in Starc's case, he was still sliding and not in 'control of his movement' when the red-cherry touched the ground. MCC had the same thing to say on Twitter.

What about Green's catch in WTC Final?

Well, going by the law, the third umpire's decision was fine. The player's movement was certainly not in control in Starc's case as he was still sliding and hadn't stopped. Now this is where the confusion starts. Let us explain:

A similar incident took place in the World Test Championship (WTC) Final between India and Australia when Cameron Green claimed one such catch standing at gully in the second innings. Shubman Gill was the man in question here who edged the ball and Green took a fantastic catch at the said fielding position. However, several replays suggested that the ball touched the ground when he took the catch.

But the third umpire of the WTC Final, Richard Kettleborough, felt that Green was in control of the ball. But then if the law applied to Starc's catch is considered here, then clearly Green wasn't in control of the movement of his body. He dived to take the catch and there is no way, he could've been in control of his body movement.

The catch here could be what was the third umpire's perspective at that moment. While Gill's decision clearly didn't turn the game on its head, but ICC should make sure that there should be consistency in decision-making in such close to the ground catches. Two different umpires cannot implement the law differently. To be fair, if Cameron Green's catch is deemed fair, then Starc's catch is also fair and vice-versa. There cannot be two different decisions in this case.

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