What is a Bye or Leg Bye in Cricket?

bye in cricket

A “bye” in cricket. This is yet another cricketing term to get your head around. When you’re getting started watching or playing cricket and you hear an umpire or commentator say “that’s a bye” you might be a little confused about what they mean.

Let’s explain a bye, and the types of bye including leg byes in cricket, and why they don’t go down on a batter’s figures.

What is a Bye in Cricket?

When the batter does not manage to hit the delivery, but still manages to take a run, this counts as a bye. 

So, for example, if the ball is a legal delivery, but the wicket keeper doesn’t pick it up, and the batters manage to run, this will be recorded as a bye. If the ball goes all the way for a four, then four byes are added to the team total and the scorecard.

Interestingly, there is no such thing as six byes. It would take quite some throw to get over the fence, we know, but the rules state that even if this did happen, a six can only be scored off the bat.

They do not count as the batter’s runs.

So what is a leg bye?

A leg bye is when the ball is bowled, and then hits any part of the body, and the batter still manages to score a run. 

So, for instance, if the bowler manages to hit the pads, but it is not LBW, and the batter goes on to run, this will be recorded as a “bye”. Leg byes do come from the fact that the ball would often hit the legs before the batter could run, but it can be any part of the body that is not the bat or the glove.

In cricketing terms, the glove counts as part of the bat, so if the ball should hit the glove and fly away for runs then it will still count as the batter scoring runs, rather than a “bye”. 

Byes go onto the team’s total for runs, but they do not count as runs in the batter’s own record. If they are on 22 not out, and score two byes, they are still 22 not out. 

Scoring Byes and Leg Byes

Of course, it couldn’t be just that simple. The umpire has some judgement calls to make. 

Crucially, regarding leg byes, if there is to be the possibility for the batters to score runs, then they must be playing a shot of some description. The umpire is to decide that they are either playing a shot or taking evasive action, actively trying to duck or get out of the way.

This is basically to prevent batters from trying any dirty tricks like flicking the ball away with another part of their body to try and score runs for the team’s total.

If the batter doesn’t try to play a shot or get out of the way then the umpire will let them run, but this is futile as no runs can be scored but a run out can occur, so as a batter you are effectively just increasing the chances of getting out.

There isn’t the same rule when it comes to the ball passing the batter for a bye to be scored, and the batters are always entitled to try and run. In some instances, such as the last ball of a limited overs match, you might even see the batter try and run when the wicket keeper has collected the ball. They effectively have nothing to lose at that point.

To help us understand what does and does not count as a bye, the MCC rules are simplified into the following video:

How Scoring Works For Byes

The rules for a bye are similar to those of a run. The batters still must cross and complete a run between their creases to complete the bye. If the ball goes all the way to the boundary, they don’t have to actually complete a run.

The umpire has signals for the scorer to tell them if they deem something a bye or a leg bye. A single arm raised above the umpire’s head is to indicate a bye. A leg bye, and the umpire will raise one of their legs and tap on the knee or the thigh area to indicate it had come off the “leg” (or any other part of the body).

The Wicket Keeper and Batter’s Figures

Runs for a batter are only scored off the bat. Byes, and leg byes, will count to a team’s overall score, but not towards their individual score.

This is why we have the “extras” column in scorebooks. These keep track of the little added extras like wides and byes.

Wicket keeping stats aren’t as widespread as batting and bowling figures, but ask any keeper and they will tell you they do not like conceding byes. They count on their figures, and on paper it can make it look like they’re letting a lot past them and ultimately not doing their job.

If the ball goes for wides (when the ball is deemed not feasible for the batter to have hit) then this won’t count against a keeper. The bowler’s figures are impacted, but not the keeper, so some keepers would be perfectly happy to see the umpire’s arms go out to signal a wide.

How Many Leg Byes and Byes Do You See in Cricket?

There are so many different facets to this. In professional cricket, the bowlers are often bowlin a lot more quickly, so if the ball hits the pads there is a chance it will go further.

In village cricket, the wicket keepers might not quite be up to the same standards, so there is a chance they might miss and cause byes as the ball flies past them (the bowler won’t be impressed).

If you watch limited overs or test cricket you will see some byes. You can tell by the way the umpire signals, and when the scorecard ticks up on the overall team score, but not on the individual batter’s score.

Conditions also play a big part of whether there are likely to be byes. For example, if the ball is turning on the wicket then the chances of byes off a spinner could increase. The ball might well be unpredictable for the wicket keeper (and the batter).

Leg byes are more likely if the pitch (and the bowlers) are quick. The ball may dart off the surface and even go all the way to the boundary rope with the wicket keeper unable to stop it. 

Summary – Understanding Byes

Cricket has a lot of these quirks and rules that need to be understood if you are going to play at a high level, and definitely if you ever intend to umpire a game. However, for most beginners and people playing at village level, it doesn’t matter too much whether you understand them, just knowing that you can run even when you didn’t hit the ball is probably enough for those playing their first village cricket game (just understand the laws of a run out too).

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