Michael Neser’s extraordinary BBL catch exposed farcical loophole in cricket’s rules that must be closed


Michael Neser’s catch to remove the Sydney Sixers’ Jordan Silk in Sunday night’s BBL match deserves to go down as one of the greatest in tournament history.

The sheer amount of athleticism, coordination and level-headedness to first take the grab in the first place, then keep cool despite making a mess of his attempted throw back into play and complete the catch almost defies belief. It deserved to win the game for the Brisbane Heat.

That being said, what Neser did exposed once again a loophole in cricket’s rules that has been swiftly labelled as farcical around the cricket world. Anyone who has grown up playing or indeed watching the game knows that the way the big Queenslander completed that catch comprehensively fails the eye test, that frankly more of the laws of this mad sport should be run past.

None of this is Neser’s fault: he knew the laws of the game, and abided by them perfectly. No one can take that catch away from him.

CLICK HERE for a seven-day free trial to watch international cricket on KAYO

But in a similar vein to the controversy in last year’s T20 World Cup game between India and Pakistan – where India scored three crucial byes after Virat Kohli was bowled off a free hit – Neser’s catch should prompt the ICC to swiftly and permanently amend the rulebook to ensure it never happens again.

Frankly, it should have happened three years ago after a similar incident in the BBL again involving the Brisbane Heat – Matt Renshaw parrying the ball back to a teammate after stepping over the line.

The current law, 19.4.2 under the MCC Laws of Cricket, reads as follows:

“The ball in play is to be regarded as being grounded beyond the boundary if

– a fielder, grounded beyond the boundary as in 19.5, touches the ball;

– a fielder, after catching the ball within the boundary, becomes grounded beyond the boundary while in contact with the ball, before completing the catch.”

One of the defining traits of cricket is its longstanding set of laws: from LBWs, to the DRS, to boundary countbacks in World Cup finals, those laws are for the most part only changed when they are publicly proven to be vastly inadequate in modern cricket.

Bizarrely, this rule isn’t an old one: an October 2013 update to the laws changed the interpretation so that only the first contact with the ball matters when taking the catch. Before then, Neser’s take would have been a six, as he touched the ball when his last point of contact with the ground had been on the wrong side of the boundary.

It flares up on occasion – Glenn Maxwell used his knowledge of the ‘new’ rule to claim a superb catch in an ODI against England in 2015 – and it just about always provokes the same general feeling of discontent within the cricket community.

As has been frequently pointed out since – including by Mark Howard on Fox Cricket commentary – Neser could have bunny-hopped his way around the boundary for ten minutes and still kept the possibility of completing the catch alive. It’s an unintended consequence of the rule change, to be sure: but Neser’s catch on Sunday night is all the excuse the ICC should need to ensure, as they did after the farce of the 2019 World Cup final, it can’t happen again.

If you’re an NRL fan, it’s essentially the equivalent of if you were allowed to have a player stand beyond the in-goal area, and then whenever the ball came their way jump in the air, grab the ball and flick it back to a teammate for a try. (Yes, it’s a dodgy metaphor – he’d probably be offside, for one thing – but I’m sticking with it.)

The solution is simple, and could go two ways: you could either make it easier for the batters by making the catcher have their last point of contact with the ground always have to be within the field of play before touching the ball, as is the case for the vast majority of boundary-tightroping catches…

… or you could make it easier for the fielders, where any catch taken where the first contact is inside the boundary is deemed to be fair regardless of whether the fielder ends up over the boundary or not.

I’d honestly be happy with either, but can imagine the first of those would be deemed the most sensible.

None of this should detract from Neser’s catch – it was spectacular, perfectly legal and one of the BBL’s best ever bits of fielding in every aspect.

But the rule which allowed him to pull it off is fundamentally flawed, and – and this is key – looks really, really silly. One way or another, a loophole exists which ought to be closed as soon as possible.

Help shape the future of The Roar – take our quick survey with a chance to WIN!

#Michael #Nesers #extraordinary #BBL #catch #exposed #farcical #loophole #crickets #rules #closed