The Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) has weighed in on Fakhar Zaman's contentious run-out on Sunday night in the second ODI against South Africa, saying it was "up to the umpires to decide" if Quinton de Kock had attempted to distract or deceive the batsman.
The run-out, with Zaman on 193, took place in the final over of Pakistan's chase of 342, when they needed 31 from six balls. The batsmen - Zaman and Haris Rauf - were trying to complete a second run, which seemed on, and wicketkeeper de Kock gestured towards the bowler's end even as Zaman neared the batting end. Zaman appeared to slow down, and a direct hit from Aiden Markram at long-off caught him short.
Later on, the MCC Twitter handle posted the law related to the dismissal - about a fielder wilfully attempting to distract, deceive or obstruct either batsman - but without really saying if de Kock was guilty or not.
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.
The debate around de Kock's gesture was whether he was intentionally attempting to deceive Zaman into thinking that the throw was headed for the other end - which could have led to Zaman slowing down and turning around - or whether de Kock was instead signalling to the fielder or bowler.
Under Law 41.5 of the MCC, about "deliberate distraction, deception or obstruction of batsman", Law 41.5.1 says: "… 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", and Law 41.5.2 says, "it is for either one of the umpires to decide whether any distraction, deception or obstruction is wilful or not".
In this case, the umpires did not take any action against de Kock, but if they had, Law 41.5.3 would have come into effect: "If either umpire considers that a fielder has caused or attempted to cause such a distraction, deception or obstruction, he/she shall immediately call and signal Dead ball and inform the other umpire of the reason for the call."
South Africa captain Temba Bavuma said in the post-match press conference that de Kock's act was "quite clever", but "I don't think he broke the rules in any kind of way".
Zaman, meanwhile, felt it was his "own fault", and not de Kock's. "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," Zaman said. "The rest is up to the match referee, but I don't think it's Quinton's fault."
The "fake fielding" law pertaining to this sort of incident was incorporated into the ICC's playing conditions in 2017. Fraser Stewart, MCC's laws of cricket manager, had then explained why it had been introduced: "The reason for the introduction of this law was that fielders were deliberately pretending to have the ball as a means of fooling the batsmen, thereby preventing them from taking further runs. The batsmen would see a slide and a feigned throw and would decline, for example, a second run.
"By the time they realised the ball had not been thrown, it would then be too late to take the second run. This was felt to be unfair. It was becoming an increasingly used practice at various levels of the game. It formed one of the questions in MCC's global consultation and the response was overwhelmingly in favour of introducing a law to ban the practice."