It’s been a while, but cricket’s most infamous debate is back.
India has secured a 3-0 series whitewash in their bilateral ODI series against England, with the low-scoring third match at Lord’s ending in controversial circumstances on Saturday evening AEST.
The hosts, who at one stage were reeling at 6/53, needed 17 runs for victory when Indian spinner Deepti Sharma ran out England’s Charlie Dean in the 44th over at the non-striker’s end, colloquially known as a “Mankad”.
Dean, who was on 47 at the time, wandered out of the crease while Sharma was in her delivery stride, and the Indian all-rounder quickly spun around and dislodged the bails.
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The decision was sent upstairs to third umpire Mike Burns, who awarded the dismissal after one glance at the footage, which showed Dean was comfortably out of her ground.
Boos echoed around the iconic venue as India celebrated the 16-run victory, while a devastated Dean broke down in tears.
The 21-year-old, who had top-scored for England with 47 in the run chase, was consoled by No. 11 batter Freya Davies as their shocked teammates watched on from the Lord’s balcony.
“It just doesn‘t feel like the right way to win a game,” former England batter Lydia Greenway told Sky Sports.
“I don‘t think she was trying to gain an unfair advantage.”
Meanwhile, the retiring Jhulan Goswami’s swansong was overshadowed by the drama, with the Indian cricket legend’s farewell match taking a back seat.
The 39-year-old’s exemplary two-decade career, which featured 284 matches and 355 wickets in Indian colours, has regrettably ended in controversy.
The term “Mankading” was coined 70 years ago when Indian great Vinoo Mankad twice ran out Bill Brown at the bowler’s end during India’s tour of Australia in 1947.
It has remained a divisive topic in the sport ever since.
In March, Marylebone Cricket Club, the sport’s custodians and lawmakers, removed running out the non-striker from the “Unfair Play” section of the Laws, making it a legitimate form of dismissal.
The International Cricket Council endorsed the decision last week, but that hasn’t stopped cricket pundits from voicing their disgust at Sharma’s act.
“Has that not just left the sourest taste in the mouth at the end of this international summer? I’m dumbfounded,” England all-rounder Georgia Elwiss said on BBC Test Match Special.
“I cannot believe the Indian team felt that was the only way they were going to get a wicket. I don’t think Charlie Dean was trying to gain any sort of advantage. It’s ridiculous.
“It’s taken the shine off Jhulan Goswami’s big send-off. She’s doing the lap of honour but everyone else in the ground is just stunned at how it’s finished.”
What cannot be denied, however, is that Dean left her crease before Sharma would have released the ball.
Although it was an anticlimactic and disappointing conclusion to what had been a fantastic contest at the home of cricket, Sharma’s run-out was entirely within the Laws of the game.
Law 41.16.1 reads: “If the non-striker is out of his/her ground at any time from the moment the ball comes into play until the instant when the bowler would normally have been expected to release the ball, the non-striker is liable to be Run out. In these circumstances, the non-striker will be out Run out if he/she is out of his/her ground when his/her wicket is put down by the bowler throwing the ball at the stumps or by the bowler’s hand holding the ball, whether or not the ball is subsequently delivered.”
However, several cricket fans, including the legendary James Anderson, accused Sharma of having no intention of actually bowling the ball, bringing the Spirit of Cricket into question.
“It divides opinion. I‘m not a fan, but it is how India feel about it,” England captain Amy Jones said after the loss.
”It is in the rules, and hopefully it doesn’t take the shine off a good summer and good series.
“Dean didn‘t look like getting out in any other way.”
England paceman Stuart Broad called it a “terrible way” to win a cricket match, while British television personality Pierse Morgan tweeted: “Absolutely pathetic way to ‘win’ a cricket match. The whole India team should be ashamed of themselves.”
England wicketkeeper Sam Billings posted: “There’s surely not a person who has played the game that thinks this is acceptable? Just not cricket …
“Well within the laws but not in the spirit. Just my opinion … the law should be changed back to a warning system or penalty runs for excessive backing up.”
Former England batter James Taylor posted: “What an average way to win a game! Yes it’s officially in the rules! But poor when the batsman wasn’t trying to gain an advantage! She was just walking in with the bowler and when the bowler should’ve released the ball she was still in her crease! Really poor.”
Indian captain Harmanpreet Kaur was adamant Sharma’s run out had not overshadowed the series victory or Goswami’s farewell.
“Today whatever we have done I don’t think it was any crime, it is part of the game and it is an ICC rule and I think we just need to back our player,” she said.
“I don’t think (Sharma) has done something wrong and we just need to back her.”
Former England spinner Alex Hartley told BBC Test Match Special: “I don‘t really know how I feel about it because I don’t think it’s in the spirit of the game.
“I can‘t believe it’s happened but I can believe it’s happened, and that it is Deepti Sharma.
“She always, always threatens to do it so as a team you‘ll talk about it. England have got a lot closer than India would have expected and she’s actually done it.
“I just don‘t think that’s how you should finish an international game. England are going to be absolutely seething.”
England seamer Kate Cross, who earlier claimed 4/26 from 10 overs, sympathised with Dean after falling three runs short of a maiden half-century in international cricket.
“I‘m more disappointed for Charlie that she couldn’t get a fifty at Lord’s today because she looked set to do that and if we’re looking at the real positives, perhaps that’s the only way they could get Deano out,” Cross said.
“So, I’m just disappointed for her.”
Earlier, Indian opener Smriti Mandhana and Sharma scored half-centuries as the visitors registered 169 in the series finale.
Cross claimed three wickets during the Powerplay to leave India in dire straits at 3/17, but Sharma’s unbeaten 68 guided her side towards a competitive total.
In response, Player of the Match Renuka Thakur took 4/29 in a blistering spell to rattle England’s top-order before Dean and Davies combined for a 35-run partnership for the tenth wicket to put England within touching distance of the target.
It was India’s first ODI whitewash against England since 2002, when Goswami made her international debut.