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'Get a grip': Broad fumes, cricket world erupts as Poms cop hugely controversial wicket in U19 World Cup

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3rd February, 2024
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England once again finds itself embroiled in a spirit of cricket debate – and this time, they may have a right to feel aggrieved.

On their way to a commanding 146-run victory over Zimbabwe at the U19 World Cup, controversy erupted in the 17th over of their innings when batter Hamza Shaikh was shockingly given out ‘handled ball’.

The ultra-rare dismissal came about after Hamza inside-edged an attempted drive into his pads, with the ball stopping dead at his feet.

Picking the ball up and throwing it to wicketkeeper Ryan Kamwemba, the batter was shocked when the Zimbabweans immediately began appealing.

After a lengthy consultation between the umpires and a video review, Hamza was adjudged out for 1 according to Law 37.4 of the MCC rules of cricket, which states that ‘either batter is out Obstructing the field if, at any time while the ball is in play and, without the consent of a fielder, he/she uses the bat or any part of his/her person to return the ball to any fielder’.

After Alex Carey’s stumping of Jonny Bairstow during the 2023 Ashes sparked a tidal wave of fury around English cricket, this far dodgier dismissal was never going to escape without provoking a strong reaction, even if it hardly mattered in the context of the result.

Leading the charge was former England great Stuart Broad, who posted on X that Zimbabwe needed to ‘get a grip’.

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“He’s passing a stationary ball back to the fielder? Doing him a favour! Cant give that out,” Broad wrote.

Even harsher was the view of former England seamer Tim Bresnan, who blamed the umpires for the dismissal – calling it ‘some of the worst officiating I’ve ever seen’.

“Embarrassing decision. Typical example of those who know the rules but don’t know the game,” Bresnan wrote.

Commentating on TalkSport, another former England fast bowler in Steve Harmison also expressed his displeasure.

“We have a way of kicking ourselves between the legs in this great game we love,” he said.

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“Common sense doesn’t always come into officiating — I don’t know why. Common sense would get on so much better if we had some.”

After seeing a replay, Harmison added that Hamza’s dismissal was a ‘shocker’.

“If you’re getting given out for that then the game’s gone, it really has. How can an umpire give that out?” he said

Such incidents are extremely rare in international cricket; though batters will often pick up a stationary ball near them and return it to the fielding team, the most they usually receive in return is a stern rebuke.

Famously, Australian opener Andrew Hilditch was given out handled ball in an acrimonious Test against Pakistan at the WACA in 1979.

At the non-striker’s end, Hilditch gathered a wayward throw and returned the ball to bowler Sarfaraz Nawaz, who had begun appealing the moment he had picked it up.

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The incident was seen as revenge for another controversial incident earlier in the Test, where Australian quick Alan Hurst had ‘Mankaded’ Pakistan’s Sikander Bakht at the non-striker’s end – which, despite recent examples in limited-overs cricket, remains the most recent example of the dismissal in Tests.

Interestingly, the handled ball is the second such dismissal in recent history at the U19 World Cup, with the 2018 tournament marred when South Africa’s Jiveshan Pillay was given out for picking up the ball and returning it to the West Indies.

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