No one likes to see a soft dismissal in cricket. Hit the ball twice and timed out are thankfully both so rare as to be almost never seen. The run-out is an integral part of cricket, yet there are soft run-outs that have no place in the game. The perfectly acceptable run-out is when the batsmen dash for a quick single and mid-off throws down the bowler’s stumps. The soft run-out occurs when the bowler stops his run up and removes the bails, catching the non-facing batsman out of his crease.
One of these soft run-outs occurred yesterday in the One Day International between England and Sri Lanka. Sachithra Senanayake was bowling and Jos Buttler was backing up. Buttler was moving too early however, and after two warnings Senanayake stopped his run up and removed the bails. Buttler was given out.
Oddly this is entirely within the laws of the game. Buttler had even been warned, both previously in this game and in an earlier match. Opprobrium has been flying in the direction of Senanayake, yet it was Buttler who was trying to gain an unfair advantage. To back up too early is to give your team a greater chance of another run. When it happens accidentally a warning should suffice. But Buttler had been warned and continued to press down the pitch unfairly.
It is an unfortunate way to be dismissed and should have no place in the game of cricket, but the fault lies with the batsmen. The bowler had warned him and still Buttler persisted. There is no excuse for being dismissed in this manner at the top level of cricket.
It would be best if this dismissal died out, like hit the ball twice. But as long as batsmen back-up in a way that almost unnoticeably gives them an advantage then some punishment for the batting side has to be available. A new punishment for umpires to administer could be devised – though umpires already need several more eyes than humans are fitted with. Until then there should be an acceptance that soft dismissal though it is, leaving the crease early is unfair and the batsman is at fault. Once the batsman has been warned this is unfortunately a legal dismissal.