Call for Clarification of Bouncer Laws at Inquest into the Phil Hughes Death

Daniel Brettig,  in ESPNcricinfo, 14 October 2016, with title “Clarify bouncer laws, Phillip Hughes inquest told”  

Definitions of what constitutes “unfair bowling” should be clarified by cricket’s lawmakers, the New South Wales coronial inquest into the death of Phillip Hughes has heard on an emotion-charged final day. Counsel assisting the coroner, Kristina Stern SC, submitted that the inquest should conclude that this was a case of “accidental death”, which was not made more likely by the nature of play on the day of the Sheffield Shield match at the SCG. Hughes was struck in the side of the neck on day one of the match, November 25, 2014, suffering an arterial injury that resulted in his death at St Vincent’s Hospital two days later.hughes_3116917bhughes-and-helmetphil-hughes

However both Stern and Greg Melick SC, for the Hughes family, recommended that the wording of the laws around unfair bowling should be examined in light of the episode, citing earlier testimony from former umpire and ICC umpires training manager Simon Taufel. Law 42.2.1 of Sheffield Shield playing conditions, adapted from the MCC’s laws of cricket, states as follows: “A bowler shall be limited to two fast short pitched deliveries per over. A fast short pitched delivery is defined as a ball, which after pitching, passes or would have passed above the shoulder height of the striker standing upright at the crease. The umpire at the bowler’s end shall advise the bowler and the batsman on strike when each fast short-pitched delivery has been bowled.”

Following his own independent analysis, Taufel had told the inquest that of 23 short balls bowled on the day, 20 had been directed at Hughes. However he also submitted that many of these deliveries did not meet the definition of a “fast short-pitched delivery” because they would not have passed Hughes above shoulder height.The gulf between Hughes’ family and Cricket Australia was starkly illustrated when his father Greg, mother Virginia and sister Megan all left the courtroom in the midst of CA counsel Bruce Hodgkinson’s final submissions, leaving his brother Jason to audibly register his incredulity at proceedings.Hodgkinson had recommended to the coroner, Michael Barnes QC, that the “unsworn and unsubstantiated” statement submitted by the Mosman cricket captain Matthew Day on Wednesday be disregarded when he deliberates over the events of the day and how the game of cricket might be made safer. Hodgkinson also insisted that the players who took the stand this week were honest witnesses.Melick had earlier questioned the veracity of the evidence submitted by players on the field that day: Brad Haddin, Doug Bollinger, Tom Cooper and David Warner. Melick stated that while “words didn’t kill Phillip Hughes”, their denials of any sledging cast doubt on other evidence about the nature of play. Later, Melick clarified his final submission by stating that he didn’t mean to suggest players had “fabricated” evidence. Though Melick acknowledged that the use of short-pitched bowling was a “legitimate tactic”, he contended that the volume of short balls bowled to Hughes, including an estimate of nine in a row in the lead-up to the ball that struck him, was “going too far”. These words followed on from letters from the Hughes family, which formed part of the inquest and were published on Friday in the Australian. In his letter, Greg Hughes wrote:“Their tactics changed after lunch, which started to slow the run rate down, and this was by bowling short at my son for a good majority of the time. This certainly did restrict the run flow and started to change the game… The umpires did not call them ‘no-balls’ under the Sheffield Shield cricket laws. Those laws are different to the MCC rules. By those balls not getting pulled up, of course this kept the bowlers continuing to target my son in an ungentlemanly way.

Among other recommendations made by the Hughes family were a desire to see neck guards on the back of batting helmets made mandatory, and also the removal of any dismissals for “hit wicket”, should a neck guard detach from the helmet and fall onto the stumps.

Stern had recommended wider first aid training, and also work towards greater clarity in signalling between players and officials on the field and medical staff off it. The fact that ambulance services had reached the scene only 20 minutes after the incident illustrated the need for this. However she also concluded that Hughes’ death was inevitable from the moment he was hit and should be ruled accidental.

“It is abundantly clear that once the tragic accident had occurred, there was nothing that could have been done to prevent Phillip’s death,” Stern said. She also went on to say that neither the number of short balls bowled to Hughes, nor any alleged instances of sledging, had exacerbated the risk to the batsman, and submitted that no recommendations should be made over the nature of play that day.

Outside court, CA’s head of team performance, Pat Howard, spoke about events of the week and defended the conduct of the players who spoke at the inquest. He also stated that the game’s governing body would continue to offer whatever support it could to the Hughes family. “This week provided a confronting reminder of the sad reality that Phillip Hughes is no longer with us,” Howard said. “Our thoughts continue to be with the Hughes family during what is a difficult time for them. Our thoughts are also with Phillip’s cricket friends and his team-mates, all of whom have had to deal with the loss of a great mate as well as the ordeal of being on the field at the time of the incident. I’m very proud of the conduct of the players, the officials and staff throughout.”

Formal findings from the coronial inquest are set to be handed down on November 4.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

***  ***


·         Peter Lalor 2016 “Doug Bollinger on Back foot in Phil Hughes Inquest,” 13 October 2016,
·         Andrew Webster 2016 “The sad divide between the family of Phillip Hughes and the cricketing community,” 14 October 2016, ……………………………….………………………….……….
·         ABC News 2016 “Coroner’s Inquiry into the Death of Phil Hughes: Serious Questions, Tears & Standard Fare,” 11 October 2016, [From] …. ……. …… ………     …………………..’-death-begins/7916974
·         THE AUSTRALIAN 2016 “Hughes had ‘unsafe workplace’,”14 October 2016,
·         AAPNews 2016 “Matthew Wade elbows Bowler Abbott and faces Code of Conduct Charge,” October 2016,
·         Daniel Brettig 2016 “Call for Clarification of bouncer Laws at Inquest into Phil Hughes’ Death,”

* Roberts 2016 “Against Verbal Intimidation in Cricket: A Voice in A Wasteland,” 12 October 2016,

* Roberts 2016 “Alex Kontouris faces “Chin Music” at the Coronial Inquest into Phil-Hughes’ Death,” 13 October 2016,

  • Roberts 2007 “Vilification, Zero Tolerance and Double Standards in Cricket,”, 7 November 2007.
  • Roberts [2006] “Cricket, Dirty Cricket,” reprinted in Roberts, Essaying Cricket. Sri Lanka and Beyond, Vijitha Yapa Publications, 2006, pp. 98-102.
  • Roberts 2003“Legitimising the Bullyboys on the Cricket Field,”, 16 Dec 2004.
  • Roberts [2002] “Letter to the ICC, 25 November 2002,” reprinted in Roberts, Essaying Cricket. Sri Lanka and Beyond, Vijitha Yapa Publications, 2006, pp. 103-06.
  • Roberts [2001] “Sin bin for verbal Intimidation,” originally printed on 28 April 2001, reprinted in Roberts, Essaying Cricket. Sri Lanka and Beyond, Vijitha Yapa Publications, 2006, pp. 98-102.
  • Roberts 2000 “Against verbal intimidation in cricket,” com,
  • Roberts [1999] “The Grunt, The Spit and The Scowl in Sports,” originally 1999, reprinted in Roberts, Essaying Cricket. Sri Lanka and Beyond, Colombo, Vijitha Yapa Publications, 2006, pp. 96-97.

For Essaying Cricket. Sri Lanka and Beyond, Colombo, 2006 ….search for ISBN 955-1266-26-9



Filed under Australia Cricket, Australian cricket, baggy green, confrontations on field, cricket and life, cricketing icons, cricketing rules, Daniel Brettig, performance, politics and cricket, sportsmanship, verbal intimidation, violent intrusions, welfare through sport

3 responses to “Call for Clarification of Bouncer Laws at Inquest into the Phil Hughes Death

  1. Pingback: Doug Bollinger on Back Foot in Phil Hughes Inquest | Critiquing Cricket

  2. Pingback: Alex Kontouris faces “Chin Music” at the Coronial Inquest into Phil-Hughes’ Death | Critiquing Cricket

  3. Pingback: The Phil Hughes Coronial Inquest: Cricketers Wallow in Contradictory Evidence | Thuppahi's Blog

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: