What is a Wide Ball in Cricket?

What is a Wide Ball in Cricket? 1

If you watch cricket for the very first time, it won’t be long until you see a wide ball signalled. The umpire will put their arms out to the side, extended to signal that the ball is a ‘wide’, but what is a wide? How does this impact the match and the scorecards?

In this guide, we’re diving into wides. How are they scored? What does it mean for the bowling and the batting team? How does the umpire decide that something counts as a wide ball?

What is a Wide in Cricket?

When the ball is bowled at the batter, there are certain criteria that make it a legal delivery. If these criteria are not met then it is likely that it is going to be called a no ball, which includes wide balls.

A wide is a delivery from the bowler that the umpire deems to be out of reach for the batter. This is the most simple definition.

It’s called a “wide” because it is usually given when the ball is bowled too far to the right or the left of the batter so even if they were to extend their body to full reach, they wouldn’t b able to get their bat to the delivery.

The delivery will be judged as a wide based on the batter’s standing position. If the umpire thinks that they did not have a fair chance to hit it then they will perform the motion, arms out, and call “wide ball” so that everyone knows what is going on.

Here’s what the rules of the game actually say about a wide:

“22.1.1 If the bowler bowls a ball, not being a No ball, the umpire shall adjudge it a Wide if, according to the definition in 22.1.2, the ball passes wide of where the striker is standing and which also would have passed wide of the striker standing in a normal guard position.

22.1.2 The ball will be considered as passing wide of the striker unless it is sufficiently within reach for him/her to be able to hit it with the bat by means of a normal cricket stroke.”

What Happens to The Score?

What is a Wide Ball in Cricket? 2

A wide ball is signalled to the scorers so that they can adjust the scoreboard. A wide means that the fielding side have to bowl the delivery again. On top of that, an additional run is added to the team’s overall score. 

These count against the bowling figures, but they do not count as runs for the batsman.

If the wide ball is so far wide that the fielding team can’t stop the ball from going to the boundary, these runs are awarded to the overall score. These are counted as “wides” on the scoreboard.

The batters are free to run on a wide ball if they see an opportunity to do so. These are scored as “wides” not awarded to the batters as runs. Any runs that are scored in this manner are seen as a bonus by the batting team, as the ball will also have to be bowled again. However, there is a pitfall…

If you choose to run on a wide ball then you can still be run out. This does introduce an element of risk. More on getting out off a wide (or no ball) later.

Why Do We Have Wide Balls?

For the absolute beginner and newcomer to the world of cricket, it might not be obvious why wide balls actually exist.

Why does it matter?

It helps to think of a theoretical game situation, and there is an example that comes to mind. 

This delivery (not a wide) is no longer allowed because it can cause an advantage to the bowling team. This is a similar thinking behind a wide ball.

Imagine if the penalty for a wide ball were just a single run being awarded, and not having to bowl the ball again. In the scenario where the bowling team just needed to avoid a boundary to win a match, they would surely just bowl a wide ball, or even a couple of wides.

This is also why wide ball rules are generally a little more stringent in limited over formats. In a test match, it doesn’t matter so much if the batter can’t get to the ball as there is no limit on deliveries.

We all know that this isn’t in the spirit of the game, but the incident of bowling underarm to prevent a big score is a fine example of why we need a system for wide deliveries. We can’t always rely on cricketers to do things in the spirit of the game.

Judging a Wide Ball

Of course, it comes down to the umpire in charge. 

In one day forms of the game, there are two lines on the return crease, as you will notice when you watch the sport. These help to judge whether a ball is a wide or not.

If the batter stays in their stance and doesn’t take any big steps to the left or to the right, and the ball is delivered to the batter outside of the lines, it will be called as a wide.

It’s not as black and white as that, though. In football, you know if the ball has crossed the goal line or not. In cricket, there’s always a little bit of leeway, opinion, and debate. The umpire is able to use their judgement.

So, if the batsman moves one way or the other, and the ball is then bowled in an area where they can hit it, based on this movement, it will not be called a wide.

In first class cricket, such as test cricket, the lines on the crease don’t come into consideration. The umpire’s judgement is the most important thing. They will decide if there was a fair chance of the batter being able to hit the ball.

Height As Well As Width

Another thing to be aware of is the fact that a wide can also be called based on height. If it is deemed that the ball is too high for the batter to reach then a wide can be given. 

The Frequency of Wide Balls

One of the most famous wide balls of all time…

A wide ball in cricket is not a new thing, of course, but they are more common than they once were.

A lot of the newer competitions and formats of the game have led to wides being made much more mainstream. For instance, in either a one-day format of the game or T20, it is likely that anything bowled down the leg side of the stumps is going to be called as a wide.

One comparison that comes in handy is the percentage of wides through the years. In 1975 the World Cup Final (in the very first cricket World Cup) saw 79 extras scored. Just 9 of these were wides.

Fast-forward to 2011, and out of 77 extras scored, an incredible 46 were wides.

Similar figures can be seen in many formats of the game, and though there are still fewer wide balls bowled in test matches, the rates have increased.

Getting Out Off a Wide

As we have briefly mentioned already, it is possible to get out off a no ball, but only in certain ways. A lot of the methods of dismissal are taken out of play just due to the fact that the ball is not a legal delivery. 

That said, there are scenarios that can see batters get out off a wide. 

The methods of dismissal can include:

  • Run Out
  • Stumped
  • Hit Wicket
  • Obstructing the Field

These types of dismissal have very little to do with the idea of a wide delivery, so there’s no reason for them not to still be in play.

Calling a Wide Ball in Village Cricket

It’s important to work out the distinction here. Cricket is very different on a village level, and a lot of umpires will be a little more forgiving on the calling of wide balls, but it varies. Remember that these umpires aren’t professionals either, and cricket on the weekends should be played in the best possible spirit.

Of course, if you keep bowling the ball wide and the batters have no chance of hitting it, it will be called as a wide, but there may be some more lenient umpiring in certain forms of village cricket. 


Wide balls in cricket are essential for the scoring of the game and so that nobody manipulates their tactics to get an unfair advantage. In a 50 over game, it is crucial that both teams get to face 300 legal deliveries, so any wides that occur need to be bowled again. 

Once you understand the concept of a wide, and other types of no ball, you can enjoy cricket that little bit more knowing exactly what is going on.

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