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Fair and unfair play

Law 42 of the laws of the sport of cricket covers fair and unfair play. This law has developed and expanded over time as various incidents of real life unfair play have been legislated against.

The first section of law 42 makes clear that the captains of the two teams have the responsibility for ensuring that play is conducted within the spirit and traditions of the game as well as within the Laws. This leads on to a statement that the umpires are the sole judges of fair and unfair play. It contains an override of the laws of cricket: if either umpire considers an action that is not covered by the laws to be unfair, he intervenes and will call the ball dead if the ball is in play.

Ball tampering

The state of the ball has a big effect on how difficult a delivery is for a batsman. A cricket ball is not symmetrical. It is in two parts stitched together to form a seam. How a ball swings, seams, and spins depends in part on how much air resistance there is to different parts of the ball, and to what degree the ball has deteriorated. A cricket team will normally seek to shine one side of the ball and rough up the other side. The resultant variation in air resistance on the two halves of the ball can then have a marked effect.

Ball tampering has always been a feature of the sport. Players will use objects to rough up one side of the ball, and use resins and Brylcreem to shine the other. This sort of ball tampering is against the spirit of the game and has always been against the rules. Though, as it can be difficult to spot, it has always gone on with limited sanction.

The television age has meant that from the 1990s onwards most international games have been televised. Slow motion replays have highlighted a number of incidents of ball tampering: some of which have been widely reported in the press. The third section of law 42 contains the rules and sanctions against ball tampering and requires the umpires to make frequent and irregular inspections of the ball to counter it. It also contains punitive measures against fielders who do tamper with the ball. Match suspensions may be implemented.

Some acts that may alter the ball are permitted. A fielder may polish the ball as long as no artificial substance is used, remove mud from the ball under the supervision of the umpire and dry a wet ball on a towel. But no-one may rub the ball on the ground for any reason, interfere with any of the seams or the surface of the ball, use any implement, or take any other action whatsoever which is likely to alter the condition of the ball.

If a fielder illegally changes the condition of the ball, the umpires replace the ball with another one with similar wear to the old ball before the ball tampering. The umpires also award five runs to the batting team and report the incident to the relevant authorities that the fielder is responsible to. These authorities are then expected to take further disciplinary action against the player as appropriate. If there is a further incidence of ball tampering in the innings, the same procedure is followed, but the bowler of the immediately preceding ball is banned from bowling further in that innings too.

Distracting the opposition

If a member of the fielding side deliberately distracts or attempts to distract the batsman on strike while he is preparing to receive or receiving a delivery, the umpire immediately declares the ball to be dead. The umpire also informs the fielding captain of the incident. The batsman may not be dismissed from the delivery, which must be repeated. If this happens again in the innings the same procedure is followed, but the batting team is awarded five penalty runs too.

It is also unfair for a member of the fielding side to deliberately attempt to distract or obstruct either batsman after the striker has received the ball by word or action. If this happens a procedure similar to the procedure for the first instance of ball tampering occurs, although the batting side also scores any runs that they have scored before the attempted (or actual) distraction or obstruction.

The case of a batsman obstructing the fielding side is covered by Law 37 of the laws of cricket rather than Law 42. A batsman contravening Law 37 may be given out (dismissed) obstructing the field.

Unfair bowling

The bowling of fast short pitched balls and of high full pitched balls is dangerous and is also considered unfair. Where the umpire considers that there are regular fast short pitched balls, that by their length, height and direction, coupled with the relative skill of the batsman is dangerous, the umpire calls no ball and cautions the bowler. If this happens a third time in an innings, the bowler is barred from bowling again in that innings, and is reported to the authorities he is responsible to for further disciplinary action. Where a delivery, after pitching passes over the head of the striker, the umpire calls no ball and includes it in his consideration of whether fast short pitched bowling is unfair, even though such a delivery is not dangerous.

High full pitched balls that pass or would have passed on the full above waist height of the striker are deemed dangerous unfair, except for slow deliveries, where the rule is above shoulder height. The same sanctions apply to high full pitched balls as apply to fast short pitched balls. Such deliveries, which are called beamers, can be incredibly dangerous. Usually they only occur by mistake, when a ball slips in the bowler's hand at the point of delivery and bowlers usually immediately apologise to the batsman for their mistake. If they are bowled deliberately, no ball is immediately called, the bowler is removed and is reported to the authority to which he is responsible for further disciplinary action.

Time wasting

Time wasting can be used as a deliberate tactic to win a game. If rain is forecast, a side that is in a losing position can play slow, with the hope that rain will save them and turn the result into a draw rather than a defeat. Time wasting can also be used tactically elsewhere in the game: for instance, to minimise the number of deliveries between a given time and an interval. Law 42 includes rules to counter unfair time wasting.

If the fielding side wastes time, or progresses an over unnecessarily slowly, it is first warned by the umpire. Any further occurrence, there is a further sanction. If the further occurrence happens otherwise than during an over, the batting side is awarded 5 penalty runs. If the further occurrence happens during an over, the bowler is banned from bowling further in the innings. In both instances the relevant Governing Body is informed so it may consider further disciplinary action.

In normal circumstances the striker should always be ready to take strike when the bowler is ready to start his run up. If he wastes time, in the first instance the batsman is warned by the umpire. That warning applies to the batting team as a whole and each incoming batsman is informed of that warning. If there is further time wasting by any batsman in that innings, the umpires award the fielding side 5 runs and inform the Governing Body so it may consider further disciplinary action.

Match Fixing

Match fixing occurs when a player is offered money to lose a match. If a player is deemed, by the umpire, to have deliberately got out, deliberately missed catches, or deliberately bowled extras, then the player shall be banned from taking part in the rest of the match. This also applies to captains who get players on their team to lose. They will then be reported to the governing body of cricket.

Due to the nature of modern cricket, televised matches, and instant replays, the chances of being caught match fixing are generally high. Penalties for match fixing may include being banned from playing cricket for life.

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