Bails fails: Technology can solve inconsistency of cricket’s wicked wicket ways
Whether it’s Alex Carey’s run-out that wasn’t on day two of the first Test or the bizarre middle stump non-dismissal in club cricket last weekend, bails fails are on the rise.
Is it time to remove the bails altogether at the professional level to get some consistency in the age of Zing bails and stumps that light up or is it one of those glorious uncertainties unique to the tradition of this sport which should carry on regardless?
Ask any club cricketer and they will bore you with the details of the difficulties posed by getting stumps into the ground, setting up the bails so they sit in place, the problems posed on a windy day when they keep getting blown onto the ground.
There are already spring-loaded stumps which can be placed on the ground, whether a match is on turf or a synthetic pitch.
If these could have the Zing lights and mimic the current dimensions of the wicket, including the bails, wouldn’t that be a better option than the current set-up?
It would remove that awkward minute or so which gets lost in games when the wicket is broken by a stumping or run-out attempt and the square-leg umpire does the “should I or shouldn’t I?” waltz to the pitch. Usually by the time they make it to the stumps, the damage has been repaired by the wicketkeeper and the game is needlessly delayed as the umpy makes their way back into position.
After the Jonny Bairstow brouhaha in the Ashes, Carey is not immune to unusual incidents but Friday’s run-out that wasn’t at Optus Stadium would have been a dismissal if the bails are removed from the equation.
He could be clearly heard on the stump microphone telling his teammates that he touched the stump when Marnus Labuschagne flicked in a return from in close and opener Abdullah Shafique momentarily lifted his back foot on 39.
Unfortunately for Carey, he didn’t use enough force with what was a cursory glance at the stumps for the bail to be dislodged.
The unprecedented scene at a Canberra club game last weekend where the middle stump was knocked back by a delivery but each bail somehow stayed in place, as if joined by magnetic force, was strange to say the very least.
In that instance, the batter was declared not out because neither bail had been dislodged and none of the stumps had been removed from the ground.
Technically it was correct as Law 29 states: “The wicket is broken when at least one bail is completely removed from the top of the stumps, or one or more stumps is removed from the ground.”
Not that this will likely ever happen again but the bowler in this third grade encounter was stone cold robbed of a wicket.
At the elite level, the introduction of the Zing bails has caused controversy since they were first brought in more than a decade ago.
When they are in use, a third umpire in reviewing a decision deems the wicket to be broken once the lights come on, promoted as a thousandth of a second after impact.
But if the old-school bails are in use, they wait until the first freeze frame when the bails can be seen as being separated from the stumps.
Split seconds can make a world of difference between a batter being safe or caught short of their ground.
Even though the Zing manufacturers are adamant they don’t weigh more than a normal wooden bail, there have been several incidents in recent years when they have lit up after the wicket has been disturbed but stayed in the groove of the stumps.
There were calls from Virat Kohli at the 2019 ODI World Cup for the old wooden bails to be reintroduced after David Warner was given a reprieve when he deflected a ball onto his stumps but the Zing bails refused to dislodge despite lighting up.
If cricket can create a wicket which lights up when it’s hit but does not need the bails to dislodge, it would remove this inconsistency from the game.
And it would be one less advantage that batters seem to have over bowlers.