England batsman Alex Hales has denied charges that he acted against the spirit of cricket by pursuing an unusual fielding ploy that was condemned by former Australia captain Ricky Ponting during the Sydney Thunder's Eliminator final triumph over the Hobart Hurricanes in the Big Bash League (BBL) on Thursday.
According to a Cricket Australia report, Hales was standing outside the 30-yard circle when a miscue from Hurricanes batter Simon Milenko fell short of him at mid-off as he was speaking to umpire Paul Wilson briefly.
He started as one of the four fielders required to be within the circle. Ponting said on Seven as quoted by www.cricket.com.au that "it's actually cheating," before acknowledging that even if it what Hales did was permitted by the rules, it remains an unsportsmanlike ploy.
"Take your position and then walk in with the bowler, you can't go backwards," said the former Test captain.
He was supposed to be one of four fielders inside the circle. He starts walking back outside the circle before the ball is being bowled. Anyone of us who have played the game, we know we're not allowed to walk back in the field. It's not against the rules, but it's against the spirit of the game," said Ponting.
Hales denied Ponting's charge, stressing that it is no different to the anticipation shown by slip fielders when they move to the leg-side when batters shape to play a sweep or a reverse sweep off a spinner.
"I don't think there is anything wrong with trying to anticipate and trying to get one step ahead of the batter," said Hales, who earlier struck three sixes in a match-winning 37-ball 60.
"Once the ball is let go and you see the batsman swing, you can react in the field and come forward or back. I think it's fine. It's part-and-parcel of fielding, trying to anticipate.
"I don't think it's bad sportsmanship at all," the 31-year old was quoted as saying by www.cricket.com.au.
"Interesting that walking in with the bowler to cut off a single is absolutely fine, but walking back on to the ring when they're teeing off is cheating? Never heard anyone talk about that in regards to the 'spirit of the game' in my entire career," he later tweeted also.
"They needed 14 or 15 an over so they were obviously looking to go hard," Hales explained.
"I felt like I was more likely to get a catch over my head rather than a flat one to me, so I just wanted to give myself an extra yard. I was walking back onto the ring and then went outside after he (the bowler) let the ball go. We weren't sure on the exact rules so I was just trying to clarify (with the umpires).
"But it was fine, as soon as the bowler lets go of the ball you're allowed to leave the ring, which is what I was doing. I just wasn't sure what the rules were," said Hales.