Controversy has erupted at the women’s World Twenty20 in the Caribbean over a heavy-handed umpiring crackdown.
As Alyssa Healy whacked the fastest half-century in the tournament’s history to lead Australia past Ireland, debate raged over the ICC’s pitch decisions.
The same wickets are being used for the two matches played each day in Saint Lucia (Group A) and Guyana (Group B).
Despite two contests being shorter than a 50-over one-day international in total, the umpires have come down hard on batters running on the pitch during play.
Ireland were penalised five runs for Gaby Lewis and Laura Delany running down the centre of the Guyana wicket on consecutive balls.
Adding insult to injury, Lewis was run out on the following ball by Georgia Wareham again as she made sure to run wide during a quick single.
Australia began their chase on 0-5 and took just 9.1 overs to win by nine wickets, Healy’s unbeaten 56 – having reached her 50 off 21 balls – leading the team home.
In the earlier match at the same stadium, Pakistan were penalised twice in their defeat to India.
It gifted India a 10-run advantage at the start of their innings, as they won with an over to spare to stay top of Group B with the Aussies.
Umpires have given players warnings but, in what appears to be a clear edict from the top, have not let anything slide.
Eager to put it to bed, Pakistan captain Javeria Khan said it was only a problem because the players made it so.
“I had a chat with the umpires and they told me that they warned the player thrice, and after warning three times, they gave the penalty,” Khan said.
“It’s unprofessionalism on our part that after being warned, we were still on the danger area.”
Despite being aware of the umpires’ line following Pakistan’s penalties, India said they came under scrutiny before managing to avoid a penalty.
“We were told before getting in to bat that those 10 runs were because the Pakistan batters were running on the danger end and they were warned,” batter Mithali Raj said.
“So were we, but we didn’t get to that point (where we received a penalty).”
Cricket fans were taken aback by the umpires’ crackdown:
#WT20 Not sure I agree with all these 5 penalty runs ! The batter is not always perfectly balanced ! Surely the first 2 steps are automatically taking them down the wicket regardless … And it's contributed to a run out @WorldT20 #AusVIre
— Neill M Robinson (@LincolnBirder) November 11, 2018
A world cup shouldnt be about the umpires. Because of this decision not only does it give Australia a 5 run headstart it costs us a wicket which is possibly another 20+ runs… surely some common sense should have been applied @WorldT20 @IrishWomensCric #WT20
— brian_fanning (@brianf456) November 11, 2018
Gee this running down the wicket is going a bit overboard at #WWT20 Umpies a bit over the top, poor old @Irelandcricket copping it….here’s an idea, maybe leave some grass on the pitches so they don’t get so much wear & tear!! #WT20
— Ryan Campbell (@cambo_19) November 11, 2018
— carol wical (@WicalBNE) November 11, 2018
ICC have moved from targeting dodgy actions to targeting running down the wicket…. #WT20
— Innocent Bystander (@InnoBystander) November 11, 2018
— Jamie Ramage (@famousstrauss) November 11, 2018
Terrible umpiring. These 3 pitch infractions are awful decisions today #wt20
— Renaldo Matadeen (@RenaldoMatadeen) November 11, 2018
The series of events that led to the runout. The decision to run away from the pitch definitely added a second (or two) to Ireland's run. I'm pretty mad at the umpiring here. #WWT20 #WT20 pic.twitter.com/LFdLgEfroa
— Sreshth Shah (@sreshthx) November 11, 2018
The controversy hit as the ICC opted against moving the St Lucia matches despite continual torrential rain on the Caribbean island.
England’s opening match against Sri Lanka over the weekend was washed out without a bowl being bowled, and rain is forecast for the rest of the week.
Organisers considered moving matches to Antigua – where the finals are scheduled to take place – but will now roll the dice in St Lucia.
“After considering a range of factors, including a detailed analysis of weather forecasts in both St Lucia and Antigua and an inspection of the square and outfield in Antigua, we have taken the decision to continue as scheduled,” ICC head of events Chris Tetley said.
“The rain currently forecast in Antigua would impact on our ability to prepare the playing surfaces for any relocated fixtures, as well as the playing of any subsequent matches.”
The only completed Group A match took place in Guyana as the West Indies opened the tournament with a win over Bangladesh.
If the rest of the matches are entirely washed out, that victory would send the hosts through alongside England.
The English would progress based on ICC rankings, sending Sri Lanka, South Africa and Bangladesh home.