Euro 2020 Special

Most controversial decisions by umpires in cricket history

There is no doubting that the role of the umpires on a cricket field can sometimes be a thankless one. There to interpret the laws of the game and to ensure fair play, they are expected to be impartial arbitrators of proceedings, and show no preference to either side.

Nowadays they are assisted by a third umpire who has the benefit of video replays and a fourth official responsible for the match balls and taking out drinks to the on-field umpires.

However, as football is now finding out with VAR, the use of technology does not mean every decision is right, because it still has to be used and interpreted by human beings who are fallible.

Here are some of the most controversial umpiring decisions in the history of cricket.


Kumar Dharmasena World Cup Final 2019

The fact that New Zealand failed to win the World Cup in 2019 has been blamed by some of the country’s fans on umpire Kumar Dharmasena.

Chasing 242 to win, England still needed 15 off the last over bowled by Trent Boult with Ben Stokes, England’s current test captain, on strike. The first two balls were dot balls, before Stokes connected with the third and hit it for six.

But then the moment of controversy, off the next ball, Stokes swung, failed to make a good connection with the ball and it went onto the leg side. Stokes hared down the wicket and then came back from the second, as Martin Guptill, one of the best Kiwi fielders, threw at the stumps.

Stokes lunged for the crease and the ball then struck his bat and ricocheted away for four. Umpire Dharmasena signalled six runs to England – two run on the field, plus four overthrows.

Off the remaining two balls, two more runs were scored, meaning the match was tied. That meant a Super Over each, with the scores again tied, but England won the Cup having scored more boundaries.

Dharmasena’s decision was heavily criticised at the time, and the law has since been clarified to avoid a repetition.


Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove, The Oval 2006

Darrell Hair was no stranger to controversy, having once called Muttiah Muralitharan, the most successful bowler in the history of test cricket for chucking.

However, together with fellow on-field umpire, Billy Doctrove, he earned the undying enmity of Pakistan supporters following an incident at The Oval in 2006.

During the fourth day of the Fourth Test against England, the umpires decided to penalise Pakistan five runs because they suspected they had been ball tampering. The ball was changed without reference to the fielding side, against normal protocols, and lay resumed, but the Pakistan team were not happy with the insinuations.

Following the tea break, the Pakistan refused to take the field, and remained shut up in their dressing room, with discussions went on with them and ICC officials.

After an hour they did come back on to the field, but by then, the umpires had lost patience and awarded the match to England by forfeit.

Although it was technically a correct decision, it was felt that there was little supporting evidence that the ball had been interfered with, and Hair was banned from further officiating.


Daryl Harper 1999

One of the reasons that the ICC introduced neutral umpires to officiate in test matches was to ensure that there could be no accusations of home bias.

Certainly, India had cause to feel they were on the wrong end of a bad decision by Australian umpire Daryl Harper during the Adelaide Test between the two countries in 1999.

Chasing 387 to win, India had lost three quick wickets when Sachin Tendulkar came out to bat. Shortly afterwards he faced a delivery from fast bowler Glenn McGrath, which was banged in short.

Tendulkar ducked, expecting the ball to sail over his head, but, surprisingly, it stayed low after pitching, and hit the shoulder of the batter.

The Australians appealed for leg before, and Harper gave Tendulkar out.

Although that was strictly legal, subsequent replays suggest that the ball would have missed the stumps.

Indian supporters have always argued that it was no coincidence that it was an Australian umpire who gave their best player out in such unusual circumstances. Harper, though has always stuck to his guns and insisted he made the right call.

It is in the record books as one of McGrath’s 563 test victims.




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