Last weekend, on a cricket field in suburban Melbourne, something very strange happened.
In a Mid Year Cricket Association match between Moonee Valley and Strathmore Heights, a batsman was bowled and the stumps ended up looking like this.
Which was obviously very cool because of the sheer improbability of the bails being suspended with the middle stump out of the ground.
Initial reactions of players were summed up by these lines from Moonee Valley captain Michael Ozbun in local paper the Moonee Valley Leader:
"There was a little bit of debate and the umpire was a bit confused as well. Nobody had seen anything like that before. I was on the boundary, I saw the stumps fly and thought 'all right, he got bowled, it was a silly shot'.
Then everybody was standing around the wickets and I didn't know why. I went out there, saw what was going on and it was very confusing."
Which didn't really explain how two bails can suspend themselves without the support of a middle stump, but it did at least capture the general WTF mood.
The really pressing issue was this: was it out?
After all, everybody knows that the bails must be removed for a batsman to be out bowled. But is that really how it works? Ah, well a closer inspection of the Laws of Cricket shows that there's more to it than that.
To be out bowled (or run out, or stumped), the stumps must be "put down", which sounds like a humane way to end a stump's life, but which, according to Law 28, means:
"A wicket is put down if a bail is completely removed from the top of the stumps, or a stump is struck out of the grounds by the ball, the striker's bat, the striker's person (or by any part of his clothing or equipment becoming detached from his person), a fielder (with his hand or arm, and provided that the ball is held in the hand or hands so used, or in the hand of the arm so used).
See the bit we bolded? Yep, if the stump comes out of the ground, you're out -- regardless of what the bails do. So we can tell you without fear that the umpire got it right when he dismissed batsman Jatinder Singh.
As for how the bails actually stayed on, we might need a scientist to explain what happened. In fact we just asked one. Keep ya posted. Meanwhile here's what one helpful person had to say.
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