If you’ve just started playing or watching cricket, a “no ball” can be one of the confusing things to wrap your head around.
So what is a no ball in cricket?
To put it as simply as possible, a no ball is a delivery from the bowler that is not within the rules of the game. Cricket has a complex set of rules, mainly designed to ensure that it is a fair contest.
If you start watching cricket you will notice that there are fairly regular no balls signalled and called by the umpire, especially in formats like T20 and one day cricket.
Why do they exist?
Without the option to call a no ball, bowlers would be free to use tactics and techniques that give them an advantage and make it nearly impossible for the batter to hit the ball. Some of these methods could even put the bowler in danger.
If a no ball is called, the main methods of dismissal are out of the question for that delivery (bowled, LBW, and caught), and there is usually a free run, and the bowler has to bowl the delivery again. A no ball also results in a free hit, where the batter can have a swing without fear of being called out. Runs scored off a no ball still count, too.
You can see why bowlers are so keen to avoid them.
Rules evolve, and one high-profile incident in the 1980s shows the importance of the no ball in the world of cricket.
It occurred in the World Series Cup at the MCG in 1981, when the Australian team used a technicality to avoid the possibility of potentially having to tie the match. Off the last ball of the match, Trevor Chappell, instructed by his brother and captain Greg, decided to bowl a slow underarm delivery to avoid the possibility of being hit for six. This would’ve resulted in a tie.
This unsportsmanlike behaviour even led to a change in the rules.
All of The No Balls Possible
Strap yourself in as we go through all of the different ways that a bowler can be called up for a no ball! Some of these you will see in virtually every cricket match you watch, while others you will only see once in a blue moon.
- No Ball: Front Foot
The video below gives a simple overview of a no ball, including the front foot no ball.
The rules state that some part of the bowler’s front foot has to be behind the crease when they bowl, which means the moment the ball leaves their hand.
As long as some part of the foot is behind at this point, it is a legal delivery, and even if the foot slides forwards then it is legal. However, if the foot goes beyond the line it will be called as a no ball.
If there is a front foot no ball then the bowler has to add another delivery to the over, and a run is awarded to the batting team. In one day formats of the game, the next ball is a free hit.
In these types of no ball, the only ways in which a batsman can lose their wicket are: Hit the Ball Twice, Run Out or Obstructing the Field. Run outs are the most common way to get out off a no ball, so batters will often be cautious.
- No Ball: Bowler Touching the Return Crease
There are vertical lines to each side of the stump which represent the return crease, and the bowler has to stay within these lines throughout the delivery. If a foot should stray to the side then it will be a no ball.
The full foot must be in these confines, not just a part of the foot.
- No Ball: Underarm
This is a no ball, and it can’t be confused as a mistake. No underarm bowling is allowed in modern cricket, even though it used to be pretty prevalent.
- No Ball: Height
Another of the more common reasons you will see a no ball being called, due to the fact it can endanger the batter.
If the delivery is above waist height when it reaches the bowler as a full toss, then it should be called as a no ball.
Like most other methods, you can’t be caught out or bowled off a no ball of this variety. In one day formats they are often the result of attempted yorkers gone wrong.
The bowler may get a warning and if they continue to bowl these no balls they will be removed from the attack. If the umpire thinks it was deliberate, they can remove the bowler without warning.
- No Ball: Multiple Bounces or Outside of the Strip
If the ball bounces more than once by the time it gets to the batter, it is a no ball. Deliveries are only allowed to bounce once and can’t roll along the ground.
Wide balls are a different proposition, but if the ball is outside of the strip (the area cut for play) and the batsman wouldn’t be able to hit the ball, then it will also be a no ball.
Bowling a wide ball doesn’t result in a free hit, but outside of the strip can, so bowlers need to be very cautious about this.
- No Ball: Over Head Height
If the ball is over the height of the batter’s head when it reaches them then it is a no ball. It doesn’t matter if it has bounced. The square leg umpire makes this call as they have the best view, and they will decide based on the batter’s height, rather than their stance. If they’re crouching, it doesn’t make a difference.
An extra run is given and the next delivery is given as a free hit in the one day formats.
- No Ball: Bowler Hits Wickets
If the bowler runs into the wickets, and catches them with his delivery stride, then a no ball is called. This is a relatively new addition to the rules. It means bowlers have to be careful about not hitting the wicket as they run past to bowl. England bowler Steven Finn used to struggle with this a lot, and is thought to have contributed to the rule change.
It is different from ‘Mankading’ which is when a batter is run out for leaving their crease (usually in preparation for a quick run) before the ball has been bowled.
- No Ball: Failure to Declare Action
Before you bowl, you must declare the action you are going to use. If you suddenly come around the wicket when you have said you’d bowl over, or change which arm you use (some bowlers can do this) then it will be called a no ball. You have to provide some warning of your intended method.
- No Ball: ‘Throwing’ Rather Than Bowling
The bowler’s arm should be straight at the point of delivery. This is referred to as ‘bowling’ rather than ‘throwing’ but if there is more than a 15 degree angle it is deemed as a throw and should be called a no ball.
This is tough to enforce, as the umpire can’t measure with any certainty, so the bowler would probably need to be violating this rule by some way for the umpire to call it on the field. If it happens twice in a match then the bowler will be taken out of the attack.
- No Ball: Fielder Intercepting the Ball
Incredibly rare, but it is in the rules.
If a fielder (including the wicket keeper) should intercept the delivery before it reaches the batter and allows them to have a chance to play it, it should be called as a no ball. You may never see this in a lifetime of watching cricket.
- No Ball: Leg Side Fielding Restrictions
This is rare but you do see it, there is a chance of it happening through a fielding error. A leg side no ball is called when the fielding time has more than two fielders behind square leg.
This rule was put in place after the Bodyline series that involved England packing the leg side and intimidating with short bowling techniques down the leg side.
- No Ball: Wicket Keeper in Front of the Stumps
Even if the bowler provides a perfectly legal delivery, the wicket keeper must take the ball behind the stumps, unless the ball has hit the batter’s clothing, body, or bat (of course) when it counts as a catch.
If the ball is collected by the keeper in front of the stumps then it will be called as a no ball.
- No Ball: Back Foot
One of the simplest rules out there, the back foot should not break the return crease on the back foot. It is rare to see any violation of these rules.
- No Ball: Ball Stops Before Striker’s Wicket
If the ball doesn’t even reach the bowler’s wicket then of course, it will be a no ball. This doesn’t tend to happen in the pro game but can occur in village cricket, or sometimes if a professional bowler slips, or the ball slips out of their hand on their way to deliver.
- No Ball: Throwing the Ball Before Delivery
This is another very rare potential no ball. If the bowler throws the ball towards the striker before they deliver it. It could otherwise happen to try and stop the batters from quickly stealing a run.
- No Ball: Dangerous Bowling
This is open to some interpretation, and it is designed to give the umpires more control of the game taking place in front of them.
A lot of the rules above cover dangerous bowling. It is tough to clarify what constitutes dangerous bowling, but it could be that a tailender without much in the way of batting skills is being targeted by a bowling attack with bouncers aimed at their head.
The umpire may also call a no ball if the bowler is continuing to try to hit the body, and if the umpire deems they are trying to intimidate rather than get the wicket of the batter.
There is a catchall rule that states that a no ball can be called if the ‘umpire deems the bowler to be bowling dangerously and unfairly.’
If you’ve been watching the cricket and noticing a lot of wide balls, you might be wondering why they have been called. When you first start watching this can be one of many confusing elements, along with fielding positions, scoring, and some of the terminology. Our guide sets out to make it much more simple to understand the 16 ways in which a no ball can be adjudged.
Is a beamer a no ball?
Yes, a beamer is a type of delivery that reaches over waist height without hitting the ground, so it is covered under the no ball rules, and is not allowed. If a bowler bowls a beamer they will have to bowl it again and face a free hit.
Can a batter be run out off a no ball?
Yes, while you can’t be out in some ways from no balls, you can be run out. Batters can also be given out hit the ball twice or obstructing the field off a no ball.
Is a wide a no ball?
A wide ball is slightly different, and while you have to bowl it again if you are a bowler, you don’t have to bowl a free hit to the batter just because of a wide ball. Wides are when the ball is adjudged to be outside of an area where the batter can realistically play a shot. They don’t count as no balls. If a delivery is both a wide and a no ball, then no ball rules are followed.