Ben Stokes benefited from a recent rewrite in the Laws of Cricket during England’s third Test against West Indies in St Lucia. The all-rounder was seemingly dismissed by Alzarri Joseph in the 70th over of Day 1 of the Test when he pulled a short ball straight back to the bowler. He had left the field of play when replays on the big screen in the Darren Sammy National Cricket Stadium alerted the umpires to the possibility that Joseph may have overstepped the delivery.
No. 7 Jonny Bairstow had already taken Stokes’ place in the middle when onfield umpire Rod Tucker, following confirmation from Chris Gaffaney in the third umpire’s chair, signalled for no-ball. Stokes, who was on 52 at the time, returned to the crease and ended the day unbeaten on 62 off 130 balls. He shares an unbeaten partnership of 124 with Jos Buttler that saved England from a precarious position.
Had this incident happened before April 2017, Stokes’ departure from the field of play would have signalled the end of the matter. That was the month when the Marylebone Cricket Club included an additional clause in Law 31.7, which governs the status of batsmen "leaving the wicket under a misapprehension".
The new law reads: "An umpire shall intervene if satisfied that a batsman, not having been given out, has left the wicket under a misapprehension of being out. The umpire intervening shall call and signal Dead ball to prevent any further action by the fielding side and shall recall the batsman.
"A batsman may be recalled at any time up to the instant when the ball comes into play for the next delivery, unless it is the final wicket of the innings, in which case it should be up to the instant when the umpires leave the field."
Stokes admitted after the sequence of events was quite unusual. "It’s a good job I didn’t take my pants off. It was just a bizarre bit of cricket all round," said the all-rounder. "Thank God for technology. It’s a first for me and it’s probably something they need to get control of. In international cricket you shouldn’t be walking off, getting into the changing rooms, and then back out there two minutes later."