Fakhar Zaman took responsibility for his run-out in the second ODI in Johannesburg on Sunday, saying it was "my own fault". However, Temba Bavuma, the South Africa captain, appeared to suggest that the gesticulating on the part of wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock, which seemed to distract Zaman, was a deliberate act after all, calling it "quite clever".
The Pakistan opener's brilliant innings ended on 193, off the first ball of the final over of the match, when a direct hit from Aiden Markram from long-off caught him short of the crease at the striker's end.
However, there was a question mark surrounding the legality of the dismissal, because de Kock was moving his arms about, possibly indicating that the throw from Markram might be going to the non-striker's end. He might, equally possibly, have been trying to communicate something to his team-mates. In the event, Zaman slowed down considerably, even turned around to look at the non-striker's end and was caught short.
"You've always got to look for ways especially when things are not going your way, got to find ways to turn the momentum around. Quinny did that," Bavuma said after the game. "I don't think he broke the rules in any kind of way. It was a clever piece of cricket.
"Maybe some people might criticise it for maybe not being in the spirit of the game. But it was an important wicket for us. Zaman was getting close to our target. Yeah, it was clever from Quinny."
If de Kock's gesture was a deliberate misdirection - as Bavuma might have suggested there - it was in contravention of the laws of the game, because Law 41.5.1 states: "it is unfair for any fielder wilfully to attempt, by word or action, to distract, deceive or obstruct either batsman after the striker has received the ball".
The Law is clear, with the offence being an ATTEMPT to deceive, rather than the batsman actually being deceived.— Marylebone Cricket Club (@MCCOfficial) April 4, 2021
It's up to the umpires to decide if there was such an attempt. If so, then it's Not out, 5 Penalty runs + the 2 they ran, and batsmen choose who faces next ball.
Before that ball, Pakistan needed an unlikely 31 from six balls. They went on to lose by 17 runs, but if de Kock's act had been deemed illegal, Pakistan would have been allowed the two runs they attempted as well as five penalty runs, and the ball would have to be re-bowled, leaving them with 24 to get from six balls.
Zaman, though, chose not to blame de Kock. "The fault was mine as I was too busy looking out for Haris Rauf at the other end as I felt he'd started off a little late from his crease, so I thought he was in trouble," he said. "The rest is up to the match referee, but I don't think it's Quinton's fault."
The conciliatory remarks might go some way towards taking the scrutiny off the umpires, who appeared not to see anything untoward in de Kock's actions.
It wasn't the only point of contention towards the closing stages of the match. In the 47th over, Bavuma dropped a chance from Zaman, only for the ball to touch his hat, which had fallen off. The umpires didn't award any penalty runs, which is in line with the law (28.2.2), which states that it is "not illegal fielding if the ball in play makes contact with a piece of clothing, equipment or any other object which has accidentally fallen from the fielder's person".