Club Cricket Conference

Saturday, 14th December 2019

Nine-match ban seems way too harsh for Purnell incident

Personal View:  Charles Randall

The Purnell CC bowler who threw a no-ball direct to the boundary to deny an opposing batsmen his maiden hundred has been banned for nine matches this week by the Somerset County League. The sanction is way over the top - it is wrong, wrong, wrong.

A league statement announced that the bowler involved had not been Ronnie Casling as had been reported. This was strange as a  Casling bowling analysis was shown online as 3.2-0-31-2, the only broken over in the innings. Yet the league did not name the person they had punished  - another oddity. But let that mystery pass.

The player cited was a bit of a naughty boy, and Purnell CC apologised on his behalf for what they described as an "unsavoury" incident. Throwing a deliberate no-ball was certainly not in the spirit of the game, gifting Minehead 2nd XI the match while leaving batsman Jay Darrell stranded on 98.

Darrell, 23, spearheaded a sensational  run-chase, Minehead racing past Purnell's total of 280 with four wickets and 2.4 overs in hand, and he deserved every accolade for shrugging off the bowler's puerile behaviour with a tweet: "Hell of a game today. Shame the way it ended, but oh well."  The reaction of a team player.

Criticism in the national media came from all quarters, with Rob Key saying the bowler's attitude was "appalling".  Yet this was less a blot on the game of cricket than a spotlight on a player's character. One could only guess what motivated a burst of smiling petulance. Giving up the ghost on the brink of defeat has happened so many times in cricket it is hardly noteworthy, so it was only the crude frustrating of a century that made the incident unusual.

The Somerset County League panel seemed to forget that cricket was a team game, implying that the disappointment of an individual was a very serious matter indeed. And this was no more than disappointment, because there was no guarantee of a century. Darrell might have been dismissed going for the winning hit, given the chance. In any case one could easily imagine that Darrell's first hundred will arrive sooner than later.

Judging by the nine-match sanction it would be hard to believe that no umpires were abused; there were no threats reported; there was no violence; the match was not thrown - as had been the case the previous season when Carew declared in the first half hour of the match against Cresselly to make sure they won the Pembrokeshire League Division One title - which, amazingly, they were allowed to keep.

The Somerset County League disciplinary committee said that the Purnell incident "brought the SCL and cricket in general into disrepute and contained behaviour that was against the Spirit of the Game".  However, nine matches gave the wrong signal. Suspension for a couple of matches would have been more than sufficient to make the point.

The moral argument was a little reminiscent of the Ashes Test at Sydney in 1995 when England's captain Mike Atherton declared with Graeme Hick on 98. While England were supposed to be rushing towards a declaration on the fourth afternoon, Hick scored 36 in 80 minutes, blocking his way towards  a much-needed century. When three balls in a row were patted back to the bowler, Atherton lost patience. 

Hick was very upset, refusing to speak to his captain for a day. He recalled: "To say I was disappointed would be putting it very politely. It created a bad atmosphere in the dressing room. It went very quiet. And even when we took the field, it was very flat. Athers has said since maybe it wasn't the right decision."

It was a shame one man's personal disappointment affected the whole team. Opinion was split whether Hick was guilty of selfishness or whether Atherton lacked sensitivity. Australia hung on for a draw with seven wickets down after rain reduced the playing time on the final day.