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Is tampering law right?

By Martin Gough

Umpire Darrell Hair and Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq
Ball-tampering remains cricket's biggest stigma
Rules on ball-tampering in cricket are often painted as black and white but in fact there is a grey area that can easily cause controversy.

Aside from the stigma involved in being labelled a cheat, it is very difficult to make an objective judgement on whether the rules have been broken.

When Pakistan were penalised at The Oval in August it provoked a furore, with captain Inzamam-ul-Haq refusing to play on in protest at a slight against his country.

BBC Sport looks at the case for and against altering the rules.


Law 42 (Fair and unfair play)

3. The match ball - changing its condition
(a) Any fielder may:
(i) polish the ball provided that no artificial substance is used and that such polishing wastes no time.
(ii) remove mud from the ball under the supervision of the umpire.
(iii) dry a wet ball on a towel.

(b) It is unfair for anyone to 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, except as permitted in (a) above.

A change to the law six years ago included, for the first time, a provision to award five penalty runs to the batting side "in the event of any fielder changing the condition of the ball unfairly".


Ball-tampering is not limited to isolated events that hit the headlines.

According to former Gloucestershire and England bowler Mike Smith, who spoke at an umpires seminar last year, bowlers use lip salve, sun cream, hair gel and glucose to increase shine on the ball and make it swing.

He even said one bowler, who he refused to name, had concealed emery paper under a finger plaster to rough up the ball.

Woolmer would like to make a distinction between working on the ball by natural means - rubbing it on the ground or using fingernails - and using foreign objects, like a bottle top or emery paper.

The other problem arises in the awarding of penalty runs, with the umpire forced to make an objective decision on the spot, and with no right of immediate appeal for the accused.

Pakistan have argued this week that a ball hit into advertising hoardings or the concrete stands could become rough in the same way as if it had been tampered with.

English domestic officials, meanwhile, judged the five-run penalty insufficient in two cases of ball-tampering last year, involving Gloucestershire's Steve Kirby and an undiscovered Surrey player.

Both incidents provoked inquiries, with Kirby given a suspended ban and Surrey docked points.

International cricket's code of conduct provides for a fine of 50-100% of a match fee match fee and/or a ban of one Test or two one-day internationals.


Woolmer's position as a former batsman in favour of scrapping the rule is rare as opinion seems to divide between those who want to take wickets and those who want to avoid losing them.

Mike Gatting
You shouldn't be allowed to rub the ball on the ground or gouge bits out of it with your nails

Mike Gatting
Former England bowler Derek Pringle, now cricket correspondent for the Daily Telegraph, last year stated a similar position.

"Ball tampering, which sounds nefarious, has gone on in various guises since the game was invented," he argued.

"Mis-labelled as cheating by many, it does not seek to unbalance that equilibrium [between bowler and batsman], rather to maintain it.

"Law 42.2 should be more laissez faire, though only fingers rather than tools should be allowed to roughen and pick at the ball."

Batsmen are enjoying more success now than in the past - 12 of the top 50 scores ever in Test cricket have come since the start of the century.

"Covered pitches, lightweight helmets and body armour, big bats that pick up like feathers, shrinking boundaries, have all been brought in to keep bowlers from planting their flag at the top of the hill," wrote Pringle.


Former England captain Mike Gatting - a batsman - is in the opposing camp.

"You shouldn't be allowed to rub the ball on the ground or gouge bits out of it with your nails," he told BBC Sport.

"You are changing the state of the ball by rubbing it on the ground."

Gatting feels there is a grey area over whether a ball has been tampered with but added: "You've got to accept the opinion of the umpire.

"Umpires have been given the responsibility to check the ball and it's got to be down to their opinion."


For an offence widely considered as being very serious, a five-run penalty is relatively minor.

However, it impossible for a team to appeal before being effectively labelled cheats.

A code of conduct hearing does allow both sides to present evidence and permits a right of appeal for an accused player.

And in an area that is so emotive, cricket's law-makers may now consider removing the on-pitch punishment in favour of one that allows time to breathe.

But the debate will continue over how much ball-tampering is too much.

Disrepute ban for skipper Inzamam
28 Sep 06 |  Pakistan
Woolmer wants ball rule scrapped
23 Aug 06 |  England
Cricket to clamp down on cheats
27 Apr 05 |  Cricket
Batting's new golden age
09 Jun 04 |  Cricket


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