Joe Root and the Yorkshire Vikings displayed genuine sportsmanship in their decision not to run out Lancashire Lightning’s Steven Croft during their T20 Blast fixture on Saturday. By the first ball of the eighteenth over, Lancashire required just 15 runs off 18 deliveries, and Croft was called through for a quick single by his batting partner Luke Wells.
Half way up the wicket, however, Croft fell in a heap, clutching his left hamstring. Yorkshire had the opportunity to take the bails off and get themselves back into the contest, but elected not to, allowing Croft to recover and eventually hit an unbeaten 26 to take his side to victory.
What would you have done?
— Vitality Blast (@VitalityBlast) July 17, 2021
The incident has divided onlookers, with many praising a demonstration of the often-cited but rarely tangible spirit of cricket, and others criticising Yorkshire for foregoing an opportunity to gain a foothold in a game against their oldest rivals. Mark Butcher told Sky Sports that he was “baffled”, urging Yorkshire to “run him out, and deal with it afterwards”.
Butcher’s view seems contradictory of a game that has always prided itself on acts of magnanimity. After Australia’s Test side brought the sport to its nadir of niceness, Root has brought much-needed respite from endless sledging and off-field enmity. Given Yorkshire had already qualified for the quarter-finals, the backlash seems overblown.
Any Roses game must of course be treated with the utmost respect, but the Blast remains a family event aimed at involving young kids and newcomers in the game. I am not sure we want those fresh faces seeing their new-found idols engaging in gamesmanship and bad-spirited cricket. On the contrary, Root showed why he is so widely revered on and off the field.
As the Hundred commences and cricket welcomes more of the uninitiated onto its shores, the game finds itself in a precarious position. Amongst the fireworks, DJ sets and neon graphics, cricket’s spirit remains its biggest asset. Yorkshire setting such a precedent on live television will go far in protecting it.