Top Ten Controversial Umpiring Decisions


Last night’s Big Bash match sparked plenty of debate after the controversial run out of Brisbane Heat batsmen Alex Ross.

Heat skipper Brendan McCullum had some choice words about the actions of Hobart Hurricanes captain George Bailey and his insistence on continuing with the appeal.

There has been plenty of debate online about the call with many feeling the Heat were hard done by.

The thing is, controversial calls are nothing new in cricket with plenty of hotly debated moments during its long history.

England Awarded Test Match

Never one to shy away from a controversial decision, Darrell Hair, along with Billy Doctrove, awarded five penalty runs to England after Pakistan were charged with ball tampering during a 2006 test. Needless to say, Pakistani captain Inzamam-ul-Haq plead not guilty and refused to accept the charges levelled at his team.

The visitors refused to take the field after the tea break in an apparent protest to the sanctions hoping the umpires would overturn their decision. At the time England were 4/298 in their second innings and still trailed Pakistan’s first innings total of 504 by 33 runs.

Eventually the protest ended almost an hour later however the umpires had removed the bails and declared England the winners.

Murali No-Balled

One of the more controversial figures of cricket during his nearly twenty year Sri Lankan career, Muralitharan and his bowling action was the hot topic in the 1995 Boxing Day Test. Once again it was Darrell Hair at the centre of the action having called a no ball seven times on the belief that Muralitharan’s action was illegal. After much discussion and debate, the Sri Lankan bowler was forced to operate from the other end where Steve Dunn was officiating without further incident.

Throughout his career Muralitharan faced plenty of criticism over his bowling action which some felt pushed the limits of the rulebook, but was continually cleared time and time again. It all stems back to the Boxing Day Test in 1995 when Hair kicked off the debate but the next time he toured Australia, there was more drama getting called once again in a One Dayer in 1999.

Dean Jones Run Out

Some call it poor sportsmanship, others call it playing within the letter of the law. Whichever side of the fence you fall on, you have to feel for Australian batsmen Dean Jones who was given out in a cruel twist of fate.

Jones was bowled by Courtney Walsh however the delivery was called a no-ball, at that point sparing Jones’s blushes however the batsman was already walking back to the pavilion not realising he was in fact safe. Carl Hooper, sensed an opportunity, ran in and knocked down middle stump, Jones was given out and once again, debate of the ‘fairness’ of the situation raged again.

The Mankad is Born

Something that is still a popular debate topic among cricket fans is the legitimacy of the “mankad” dismissal.

It was all born from a 1947 test in Sydney between Australia and India, named after the bowler at the centre of the controversy. After warning the Australian batsman to avoid backing up too far at the non-strikers end and being ignored, Mankad ran him out. Crowds were incensed but Donald Bradman managed to calm the riled up fans.

The Mankad recently reared its head in a first class match in Pakistan in October 2017 however despite calls for the rule to be scrapped it is still in play.

Body Before Wicket

Common sense for a batsman facing a barrage of bouncers is to duck under them. Sachin Tendulkar followed that sage advice at the Adelaide Oval in 1999 however he, like many, received a big shock when a short ball did not rise the way he expected.

The ball hit him on the shoulder on course for the stumps and the Australians appealed for an LBW (even though it wasn’t a leg). Umpire Daryll Harper gave Tendulkar out and many were left to go and double check the Laws of Cricket to confirm it was a legitimate dismissal.

Sachin Tendulkar Collides with Akhtar

When a decision sparks a near riot it should probably be included on the list of highly controversial cricket dismissals. In the first test between India and Pakistan in February 1999, Sachin Tendulkar was running back towards the non-strikers end.

A throw from the boundary meant Tendulkar had to rush to make his ground and he collided with Shoaib Akhtar who was providing backup behind the stumps. The collision meant that his bat, which was over the line, was off the ground and a direct hit resulted in him being given out.

A vocal Kolkata crowd voiced their displeasure calling Akhtar a cheat and throwing bottles. Eventually Tendulkar took a walk about the ground to help diffuse the outrage and helped play to resume after a 46 minute delay.

Australia vs India Second Test

A test that still lingers in the minds of many for the Harbhajan Singh racism allegations made by Andrew Symonds also had its share of controversial calls. Much of the criticism surrounded Steve Bucknor who was winding down a stellar career and his partner for the match Mark Benson. While both sides felt aggrieved by some of the decisions, media reports suggested that the Indian side were on the receiving end of more harsh calls.

In the first innings, Ricky Ponting was saved after Benson missed him edging the ball to Indian keeper M.S. Dhoni before later being given out LBW despite edging the ball. Up next Andrew Symonds received three fortunate decisions from Bucknor and third umpire Bruce Oxenford.

During India’s first innings, Wassim Jaffer could have argued he was dismissed off a no ball however replays proved to be inconclusive on Brett Lee’s foot. Lee and then Michael Clarke would later be denied what appeared to be plumb LBWs, Clarke missing a chance to claim Tendulkar who would go on to score 154*

As the test moved towards a result with both teams in their second innings, more controversy ensued. Michael Hussey was given two lifelines on his way to an undefeated 145. As India chased an unlikely victory they were dealt two blows as Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly were controversially given out. Ganguly with the most controversial decision as Ponting was giving his opinion to the umpire.

Andrew Hilditch Handles the Ball

A good lesson to take from this incident is to not be nice when you are the non-striker.

Andrew Hilditch picked up the ball after it was thrown onto the pitch and kindly handed it back to Pakistan’s Sarfraz Nawaz. Of course, one of the first lessons you learn as a batsman is to not pick the ball up and after an appeal, the umpire had not choice but to dismiss him for handling the ball.

Cricket lore suggests this was done in retaliation for a Mankad dismissal in the prior innings when one of Pakistan’s tail enders was dismissed while backing up. An eye for an eye or something of the sort?

Chris Broad’s Double Blow

Broad did not have the best run of luck over the span of a few months in 1987, being on the end of a couple of bizarre moments against Pakistan. In England during a series in July, on the second delivery he faced, Broad took his hand off his bat as a delivery went through to the keeper. The ball struck his loose hand and he was incorrectly given out according to the laws of the game.

In November, during England’s tour, he was once again given out caught behind despite replays showing the ball had missed his bat by inches. He refused to walk and after some heated exchanges with the umpire, was eventually convinced to walk by Graham Gooch.

Kevin Pietersen’s DRS Dilemma

It wouldn’t be a list of controversial decisions without some form of technological mention (truthfully there is a DRS centric list in & of itself we can save for a later day). During the 2013 Ashes series in England, which had a fair few DRS related dramas, Pietersen was given out after apparently edging a Peter Siddle delivery.

His review gave inconclusive evidence with hot spot showing no edge but the sound detectors picking up a nick. It turns out the silicone tape (legally) applied to the side of the bat meant that hot spot was not able to pick up the contact however KP strenuously denied he struck the ball.