Australia were handed a five-run penalty in their second innings after batsmen David Warner and Marnus Labuschagne were adjudged to have run on the pitch's protected area by umpire Aleem Dar. Like bowlers, batsmen are meant to avoid running down the centre of the pitch and into the ‘protected area’ to avoid damaging sensitive areas of the wicket. Warner and Labuschagne were scoring freely after having gained a lead over 400 runs, while the Kiwis were waiting for a declaration to put them out of their misery.
The drama started on the fourth ball of the 50th over, bowled by Matt Henry, when Labuschagne pushed a ball to point, shuffled down the middle of the pitch unsure of whether he would run, then set off once he got a call from Warner. Aleem Dar clearly warned the Australians at that point as batsmen were not allowed to run on the protected area of the pitch, which is a strip down the middle.
The rule is in place to stop teams from roughing up the central area of the pitch, where the ball lands the most. The rougher that area, the more variation in bounce and sideways movement, making it harder to bat later in the match.
Two balls later, David Warner pushed the ball into the leg side and set off for a single. He appeared to be trying to run off the pitch, but Aleem Dar said he had run for too long down the middle of the pitch. David Warner was left absolutely dumbfounded after being stung by one of the rarest cricket penalties by umpire Aleem Dar and commentators were equally surprised.
Australia declared soon after when Labuschagne was caught off the bowling of Henry, setting New Zealand 421 to win, although the target was later reduced to 416. Meanwhile, at the time of writing this article, New Zealand were reeling at 44-5 with Colin de Grandhomme and BJ Watling at the crease. Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon grabbed two wickets each.