Fair Delivery?

The Cavaliers are not renowned for our knowledge of the Laws of Cricket, nor for their close attention to tactics and skills. This is one of a series of posts intended to explain the game in the hope that we might one day know what a wide looks like, how not to drop a catch and how tosay ‘not out’ when the ball is hitting the skip on the arse a foot outside leg stump.

In this article, we will look at the no ball rule.

Law 24 deals with No Balls. A no ball is a delivery which, according to the rules of the game, is unfair, and the rule gives a large amount of protection to the batsman and a bonus run to the batting team. There are lots of reasons why No Ball may be called, but some of them are quite obscure and we won’t cover all of them here.

Part one covers the ‘mode of delivery’. When you come on to bowl, the umpire asks you whether you’re bowling with your left or right arm and whether you’re bowling ’round’ or ‘over’ the wicket and tells the batsman. If you say you’re going to bowl right handed but you bowl with your left, that’s a no ball, and if you’re having no luck on one side of the wicket and want to swap you have to tell the umpire first. This law also says you can’t bowl underarm unless this has been agreed in advance.

Parts two and three go on at length about fair deliveries; for our purposes, it’s enough to know that your arm has to be kept straight when you bowl.

We won’t worry about part four at all; this explains when and how you can run out a batsman who has backed up out of his ground, but in reality we wouldn’t even think about this unless the batsman was really taking the piss.

Then we come on to the most common cause of no balls: the feet. As you run in to bowl, you approach the ‘popping crease’, which you’ll know as it marks the edge of the batsman’s ground. Part of your front foot must land behind this line. On it isn’t good enough – any umpire will tell you ‘the line is mine’. The line on the left of the wicket on the edge of the pitch, pointing down towards the batsman, is called the return crease. No part of your back foot can touch this line as you bowl and, like the popping crease, you must have part of your front foot behind it.

‘Dangerous and unfair bowling’ is also covered, and we have on occasion had these, so it’s worth knowing the rules.

First of all ‘beamers’, which are ball that don’t bounce at all before reaching the batsman. If they are above a certain height, they are not allowed. Any ball, unless it’s bowled by a slow bowler, that passes the batsman above the waist as he stands up at the crease, is a no ball. Any ball that goes above the batsman’s shoulder height even if bowled by a slow bowler is a no ball.

Sometimes you see these called, sometimes not, because ‘slow’ is in the eye of the umpire. I’ve seen it from all three angles: been given out to one, had a bowled overturned by one and recalled a batsman who was caught on one. I would say you can’t have too many complaints as a bowler if you are no balled on height unless you’re a spinner, and if in doubt, in a friendly game, a no ball is a fair call.

The second reason to no ball a bowler for dangerous or unfair bowling covers ‘fast, short-pitched balls’:

The bowling of fast short pitched balls is dangerous and unfair if the bowler’s end umpire considers that by their repetition and taking into account their length, height and direction they are likely to inflict physical injury on the striker irrespective of the protective equipment he may be wearing. The relative skill of the striker shall be taken into consideration.

That last line is important; if one of our batsmen were making his debut, having not played much cricket before, and got a bouncer first ball, I would be inclined to have a word with the bowler and his skipper. Potentially, this could be one of those situations where if you don’t step in as an umpire, your mate at the other end could get injured. Note also that ‘well, he should be wearing a helmet’ isn’t a defence.

No ball can also be called if:

  • The wicketkeeper or part of his clothing are in front of the wicket when the ball is delivered.
  • More than two fielders are behind square on the leg side
  • Fielders are standing on the pitch when the ball is delivered
  • The ball stops, rolls along the ground or bounced more than twice before it reaches the popping crease

A batsman can’t be out bowled, lbw, stumped or caught from a no ball (he can, however, run himself out), so if you’re umpiring call it loud and early because the batsman is going to want to whack it if he can. Signal by raising one arm horizontally out to the side and shouting ‘No Ball’ loud and clear.