So When Is The Ball Dead?
A few years ago a team mate was run out whilst he did a bit of gardening outside off-stump. We were disgusted, both by the behaviour of the wicket-keeper and the failure of their captain to withdraw the appeal. Our captain got hold of the rules, only to find it particularly ambiguous. Law 23 (Dead ball) states at paragraph 1(a)i that the ball is dead when "it is finally settled in the hands of the wicket-keeper or the bowler." Paragraph 2 adds that "whether the ball is finally settled or not is a matter for the umpire alone to decide." Not good news for our player umpiring at square leg.
In a superfluous attempt at clarification the laws conclude "the ball shall be considered to be dead when it is clear to the umpire at the bowler's end that the fielding side and both batsmen at the wicket have ceased to regard it as in play." There will never be a problem if both teams consider the ball to be dead.
Today at the first test between New Zealand and Sri Lanka, Muralitharan was run out as he went down the pitch to congratulate Sangakkara on his gritty century. This event has polarised opinion; as the Sri Lankan team were visibly outraged on the team balcony, Kiwi commentator Martin Crowe stated that Muralitharan had "suffered a brain explosion."
Certainly to walk out of your ground as the ball comes in from the outfield is not to be recommended and although Brendan McCullum was unsporting when he broke the stumps and appealed, Muralitharan should not have given him the opportunity.
New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming asserted: "You can't just wander off when the ball's in mid-air and if we'd had an overthrow I'm sure they would have taken that." I guess only the Sri Lankan batsmen can answer that.