What is a Beamer in Cricket? Dangerous Bowling and Unfair Play Rules

what is a beamer in cricket

You may have heard the term “beamer” in cricket commentary and wondered what the commentators are actually talking about. What even is a beamer? 

Unfortunately, cricket does have a dangerous side to it, and we have seen some horrible injuries in the past, which the cricketing authorities have taken steps to try to eradicate.

As part of this, cricket has rules protecting the batters against certain types of deliveries. Bowlers are not free to do whatever they want. Instead, they have to bowl a legal delivery which means one that the batter has a chance of hitting and that isn’t deemed as overly “aggressive”. A beamer would fall into the aggressive category. So what is it, and how does the umpire decide?

What is a Beamer?

A beamer is a delivery that reaches the batter above their waist height, without bouncing on the ground first.

It is similar to a full toss, which can occur as a result of the bowler misjudging a yorker, and these reach batters below waist height, and don’t usually result in a no-ball unless another offence has occurred.

Beamers are aggressive play and can hit the batter quite easily in areas where they don’t have a lot of protection.

The Rules on Bowling Beamers

Beamers are not allowed in the sport. While you are allowed to bowl a certain amount of bouncers (usually two per over) which also reach the batter at a high point, they are seen as less aggressive. The batter at least has the chance to adapt and move their feet to play a bouncer.

Beamers can cause injuries, and as such they result in penalties. The ball should be called as a no-ball. In shorter formats of the game a free hit is given, which can be even more punishment for the bowler as they are likely to see the next delivery smashed for a four or six.

The bowler also gets a warning from the umpire. If it continues to happen, the bowler might be stopped from bowling again in the match. This isn’t one of those laws in the cricket rulebook we never see in action. It’s semi-regular to see a cricketer warned for this and there are high profile examples of players being stopped from bowling. This happened in the Cricket World Cup in 2003 when Waqar Younis was prevented from bowling for the match.

These rules are covered under 42.1 (Unacceptable conduct) in the laws of the game.

The umpires can use the modern video technology and the third umpire can let the umpire know if a delivery is bowled above waist height.

Are Beamers Accidental?

This is one of those debates that will rumble on for as long as we have cricket. Are beamers an accidental thing or do they happen deliberately?

There are certain culprits who are or were known for bowling more beamers than others, which leads some people to think that they are deliberate. Brett Lee bowled more than his fair share throughout his career. 

A beamer may be accidental. It is possible, for instance, that the ball is wet and slips out of the bowler’s hand. In this instance it comes down to a judgement call for the umpire. Usually, the course of action is simply to provide a warning, especially if the player has not caused any other offences throughout the match.

Beamers are often totally accidental, so if you are playing cricket at the weekend and a ball comes at you above waist height, don’t assume there is any malice in it. 

There is a code among cricketers, and it is not expected that you do anything that could possibly endanger your opponents. Shoaib Akhtar famously bowled a beamer to MS Dhoni and later admitted that it was on purpose, but his regret was also clear to see.

“That was the first time in my life that I had bowled a beamer purposely. I shouldn’t have done it. I regret it a lot. He was playing very well and the wickets were slow. And no matter how fast I bowled, he kept on hitting me with equal ferocity. I think I got frustrated.”

Fair play to him for owning up. A lot of bowlers try to pass it off as an accident. Abdur Rahman incredibly bowled three in a row when starting his spell against Bangladesh. This is made even more crazy when you consider the fact that he is a spin bowler, so not renowned for bowling beamers or full toss deliveries.

Terrible bowling? Aggression? Something else? We’ll let you decide.

What Does a Beamer Look Like?

You want to see some examples, right?

Below, we’ve shared a compilation of beamers, and you can see that a lot of them hit the batter. This is why they are so dangerous and outlawed in the game.

A lot of the time you will see a display of sportsmanship and the bowler will go up to the batter and check they are okay, but you don’t always see this. Sometimes, there are hints of aggression there.

Difference Between a Beamer and a Bouncer

You might be reading this thinking “I see balls fly past the batter’s head all the time, why aren’t they called beamers?”

Well the difference in this scenario is the bounce, hence the term “bouncer”. Bowlers are allowed to bowl bouncers at a rate of two per over. They can also be dangerous, and you certainly want to be wearing some good pads if you get hit by a cricket ball going 90 miles per hour, but they aren’t seen as the same level of aggression usually.

The fact that a bouncer has to…well, bounce, means that there are some differences. One difference is the fact that the pitch may take some of the pace off the ball. Another is that the batter can use the pitch of the ball as a way to get out of the way.

With a beamer, this is a lot more difficult and they can be really dangerous. Bouncers can be dangerous, too, but they are accepted and regulated. That said, if an umpire decides that a bowler is using the bouncer irresponsibly and bowling aggressively, they still have the same powers to impose penalties or take them out of the bowling attack.

Summary – Beamers are Not Seen as Acceptable

The main thing to know is that beamers are not seen as something that you can incorporate into your game. As a bowler, avoid them at all costs. 

A lot of the time, when they occur, it is by accident, rather than intimidation tactics, but this can’t be assumed, and umpires have to take some form of action whenever they see a beamer. 

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