5 Controversial Umpiring Decisions in Cricket History

Cricket, often hailed as a gentleman’s game, has had its fair share of controversies and dramatic turns. One of the most critical aspects of the game is the role of the umpires, who are entrusted with making unbiased and accurate decisions.

However, despite their best efforts, there have been instances when wrong umpiring calls have had a profound impact on the outcome of a match. Let’s delve into five such moments when erroneous decisions altered the course of a cricketing contest, leaving fans and players alike in disbelief.

1. The Sydney Test, 2008: Test of Wrong Calls

The 2008 India-Australia Test series in Sydney attracted attention not only for the “monkey gate” scandal but also for controversial umpiring decisions that mostly favoured Australia.

During the second Test, eventual Man of the Match Andrew Symonds escaped dismissals multiple times. Umpire Steve Bucknor’s failure to notice an edge off Ishant Sharma’s delivery and his rejection of a stumping appeal by MS Dhoni, later shown as out on replays, drew criticism.

A mistaken ‘not out’ decision on Symonds’ stumping further intensified concerns. The match also featured a rejected caught-behind appeal against Australian captain Ricky Ponting. These errors raised questions about the fairness of the officiating.

2. The Trent Bridge Test, 2013: An Unseen Edge

Cricket fans witnessed a turning point in the Ashes series during the Trent Bridge Test in 2013. England’s Stuart Broad was the beneficiary of an incorrect umpiring call that sent shockwaves through the cricketing community.

Broad nicked the ball to slip, but the catch was claimed despite him not walking. The incident drew attention to the ‘spirit of cricket,’ with debates on whether Broad’s actions were in line with the game’s ethos. Umpiring mistakes can have a cascading impact, as they not only change the match’s dynamics but also impact the players’ conduct.

3. The 2019 World Cup Final: The Overthrow Conundrum

The 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup final between England and New Zealand is remembered for its thrilling conclusion and a contentious umpiring decision that added a layer of complexity to the match’s climax.

With England needing 9 runs from 3 balls, a throw from the outfield inadvertently deflected off Ben Stokes’ bat and raced to the boundary. The on-field umpires signalled six runs, but there was ambiguity regarding whether the batsmen had crossed when the throw was released.

The decision to award six runs rather than five ignited debates about the interpretation of the rules. England eventually won the World Cup on the boundary count rule, leaving New Zealand heartbroken. This incident highlighted the need for clarity in rules and decisions during high-pressure situations.

4. Lord’s ODI, 2015: Ben Stokes Given Out Handling the Ball 

In a One Day International match between England and Australia at Lord’s, Ben Stokes became the sixth batsman and the first England player to be given out for obstructing the field.

The incident occurred during England’s chase when Stokes stuck out a glove to avoid a throw at the stumps by Mitchell Starc. The wicketkeeper, Matthew Wade, and captain Steven Smith made the appeal, leading to the on-field umpires referring the decision to the third umpire. Stokes was eventually given out, causing controversy and disagreement.

The law states that a batsman is out obstructing the field if they wilfully attempt to obstruct or distract the fielding side. This created a lot of controversy, as this was a very dicey decision by the umpire. Many felt that Stokes was trying to protect himself rather than disallowing the ball to hit the stumps.

If you don’t know about obstructing the field, then check out the below article.

Also Read: 25+ Weird and Unknown Cricket Rules – Complete List

5. Adelaide Oval, 1999: Sachin Tendulkar Given Out Shoulder Before Wicket

During India’s 1999 tour of Australia, umpire Daryl Harper made a contentious decision in the Indian second innings. As India was chasing 387 runs, they lost early wickets, including Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman.

Following Dravid’s dismissal by Shane Warne, Sachin Tendulkar came in to bat. On the third delivery of the subsequent over by Glenn McGrath, Tendulkar faced a short ball. He ducked, but the ball unexpectedly kept low, striking his shoulder. The Australians appealed for an LBW, and umpire Daryl Harper gave Tendulkar out.

According to the rules, LBW applies when any part of the batsman’s body, apart from the glove, obstructs the ball’s path. This decision involving India’s star batsman and the uncertainty of whether the ball would have hit the stumps sparked controversy. Some replays indicated the ball might have missed the stumps, but the decision remained unchanged.


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