Sawdust for the striker

Owner: A Newman

During a rain effected match a question was asked by the batting side if they could use sawdust as the batting crease was getting a little slippy.

My colleague and I took the decision to allow this as it was not effecting the danger zone in front of the popping crease. We based our judgement on the fact that a bowler can use sawdust to prevent him or her slipping, was this the correct judgement? What is the guideline in the Laws of Cricket?

The Law is, of necessity, somewhat loosely framed. Sawdust can be used to secure players' footholds provided it causes no damage to the pitch and does not contravene the concepts of fair play. In rough terms, this means that it should not disadvantage either side, nor should it change the way the pitch plays by letting it spread into areas in which the ball is expected to pitch.

It is not unusual in wet weather for a bowler, particularly a fast bowler, to require sawdust in the areas where his feet land in the delivery stride. The area in which the bowler's front foot lands is not much different from where the striker takes his stance. It is unlikely that the striker will require sawdust if the bowler does not, though a left hand bat may require sawdust in a slightly different place to that required by a right arm over the wicket bowler. On the other hand, it may be that the striker is using footwear unsuited to the conditions.

As a general principle, the umpires should allow sawdust to be used by either side subject to the conditions mentioned. If the match cannot be played safely without the use of a great deal of sawdust or without the sawdust straying on to the protected area and areas close to it, the umpires might conclude that the risk of injury is too great to allow play to continue. Unfortunately, it is not possible, without knowing a great deal more about the circumstances, to say whether your decision was right or wrong. Only you and your colleague on the day with all the facts before you are in a position to make that decision. If in doubt you should always do what is best for the Game - not the particular match, but the Game of Cricket.

Read more about Law 9 (Preparation and maintenance of the playing area) at the MCC website