It’s one of the questions you often get in pub quizzes – “list the ten ways you can be given out in cricket”. Most armchair supporters can get to six quite quickly, but the other four more obscure modes of dismissals – timed out, handled the ball, hitting the ball twice and obstructing the field – are harder to remember, simply because they are far less common in the professional game.
In fact, nobody had been given out in county cricket for obstructing the field since 1901 – until, on Saturday July 30, this fate befell Mark Ramprakash during Surrey’s second innings of their LV=County Championship match against Gloucestershire at Cheltenham College.
Law 37 states that a batsman will be given out obstructing the field if they wilfully obstruct the opposition by word or action, and this is what the umpires adjudged the veteran Surrey batsman to have done during the match at the historic Festival.
Ramprakash was on 35 when he was judged to have impeded Ian Saxelby as the Gloucestershire bowler tried to gather Kane Williamson’s throw at the bowler’s end after Jason Roy called for a risky second run. The 41-year-old started to walk off and then returned for a further conversation with umpires George Sharp and Nigel Llong before finally making his way to the pavilion to become the first player for 110 years to be dismissed in this fashion in the County Championship.
Thomas Straw, the Worcestershire wicketkeeper, had been the last cricketer to have been dismissed ‘obstructing the field’, when he was out for 3 against Warwickshire at Edgbaston on August 6, 1901. Remarkably, Straw had – as they say in police circles – previous when it came to obstruction as two years before, and almost to the day, he had been given out in similar fashion, and against the same opponents, when he had scored 8 in their Championship match at New Road on August 11, 1899.
Neither dismissal merited a comment in Wisden, but in 1899 the correspondent in The Times reported how Straw had “run into Mr. Glover who was about to catch him and after an appeal Tom Mycroft (the umpire) upheld the decision”.
Unlike Ramprakash, Straw had modest pretentions as a batsman with a top score of 32 in his 94 first-class innings for Worcestershire, with his career-best knock coming against Gloucestershire during a tenth wicket stand of 56 with Albert Bird which, at the time, was a county record.
He was an efficient and unfussy gloveman, and around the turn of the century he was an integral part of the Worcestershire side, before being replaced in 1902 by George Gaukrodger. He re-appeared briefly in 1907 with his final victim in first-class cricket being Jack Hobbs, who he caught for 2 off the bowling of John Cuffe.
The only other player to have been dismissed in this fashion in county cricket, meanwhile, was another wicketkeeper – John Whiteside of Leicestershire, who in June 1901 was dismissed for obstructing the field in the county’s second innings of their home match against Lancashire.
Once again, both Wisden’s correspondent and the man covering the game for The Times failed to reveal the precise circumstances regarding Whiteside’s departure, with the wicketkeeper having been promoted up the order to No 4 on the second evening.
Like Straw, he was also a batsman with modest pretentions, amassing just one half-century in no less than 362 first-class innings, but his most famous knock was at the Aylestone Road ground where he joined, like Ramprakash at Cheltenham, the small and very select band of players – which also includes Len Hutton for England against South Africa at The Oval in 1951 – to have been dismissed for obstructing the field in first-class cricket.