How Many Bouncers are Allowed in an Over? Bouncer Laws in Cricket Explained

Know how many bouncers are allowed in an over across all international cricket formats: T20Is, Tests and ODIs. Also, know the bouncer rule in IPL.

Subhayan Dutta
Subhayan Dutta

Last Updated: 2024-01-26

Dillip Mohanty

5 minutes read

Bouncers have always been a bowler’s biggest weapon against a batsman in cricket, which tests one’s batting skills and resolve. However, the dangers of facing a bouncer have forced the world cricket body ICC (International Cricket Council) to limit a bowler to how many bouncers are allowed in an over.

How Many Bouncers Are Allowed in an Over

One of the main reasons Test matches saw more draws back in the '70s and '80s was bouncers. Towering and fast bowlers not only used bouncers repeatedly to intimidate batsmen but also buy time as most of the time it would take over an hour to score just 15 runs. This caused frustration to the average fan, but also to fans who wanted to bet on cricket as Test outcomes became less variable and more predictable.

Tailenders faced the real threat of the brutal bouncers. Bouncers could be dealt with mostly on the backfoot and most tailenders were front-foot players, who always attacked the ball. Hence,  these deliveries were almost lethal for them with the on-field umpires intervening in the fast bowlers time and again to not attempt bouncers at tailenders.

These dangers still didn’t deter the cricket body from limiting bouncers as the game of blood and speed drew crowds in plenty. The worst, however, happened during a West Indies vs England Test match in 1986. After Malcolm Marshall hit Mike Gatting with a brutal bouncer, he found a piece of Gatting’s nose on the ball while preparing his run-up for the next delivery.

Malcolm Marshall broke Mike Gatting's nose Bouncer.png


Calls for bouncers being a restrictive weapon grew louder over the years and finally in 1991, the ICC introduced the “one bouncer per batsman per over” rule. The idea was to discourage fast bowlers from intimidating batters and three years later and three years later, the rule was further amended to two bouncers per over, which means two deliveries in an over are allowed over a batter’s shoulder height.

This decision didn’t sit well with West Indian players for obvious reasons as they dominated world cricket owing to their fiery bowlers. Former Caribbean speedster Curtly Ambrose had been quite vocal about the same during an interview with Sportstar.

Cricket is now primarily for the batsman. I am not happy with it. Not because I was a former bowler, but cricket has to be an even contest between bat and ball. At the moment, it’s very one-sided. Eighty percent of it favours the batsman. Now, that, to me, is not good competition.

“And I’ve said it before, and I’ll consciously say it again: there’s no greater spectacle than that between a great fast bowler and a great batsman. But too many rules and regulations have come into the game, and it cripples the fast-bowling department,” he further added.

How Many Bouncers Are Allowed in an Over in T20Is

As per the ICC rules, only one bouncer is allowed for a bowler to ball in an over. One could argue that bouncers are a bad strategy, especially with 120 balls at stake. Instead of trying to score runs off the pitch, the batter's first inclination is to defend oneself and it makes no sense to allow more than a bouncer in this format.

How Many Bouncers Are Allowed In an Over in ODIs

With more overs to play in ODIs, the number of bouncers allowed per ODI over is two. In 1994, when the law was first implemented, there could be only one bouncer per over. However, that specific legislation was changed in 2012, and ever since then, ODI cricket has been allowed to use up to two bouncers per over.

Batsman getting hit by a Bouncer.jpeg

How Many Bouncers Are Allowed in an Over in Tests

With 90 overs allotted in a game’s play, a bowler can bowl two bouncers per over in Tests. Two bouncers are permitted every over in all first-class cricket matches as well. Since this is the longest version of the game, a bowler may utilize more short-pitched deliveries without going too far in terms of intimidation.

How Many Bouncers Are Allowed in an Over in IPL

Like in T20Is, India’s T20 tournament Indian Premier League has also maintained a “one bouncer per over” for bowlers. However, as per recent reports, bowlers will be permitted to deliver two bounces in each over in the IPL 2024. The purpose of the new rule is to ensure that the bat and ball are in equal combat. Additionally, it was tested out for the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy in 2023–2024.

What happens when the number of allowed bouncers exceeds

As per ICC rules, if the number of bouncers exceeds in an over, the on-field umpires would call every bouncer a no-ball following the allotted limit.

Hence, a no-ball would be declared in ODI cricket if the bowler sends down a third bouncer in an over. In such a case, the batting team's total is increased by two runs and the batter at the crease will get another free hit. A batsman cannot be dismissed in a free hit unless one is run out or found obstructing the field.

In T20Is, the number of bouncers allowed is one and the umpires could signal no-ball if a second bouncer is bowled. Consequently, the batting team's score is increased by two runs and the bowler would have to bowl an extra ball, which will be a free hit.

Since there is no provision for a free hit in Test matches or first-class cricket matches, a third bouncer will be announced as a no-ball. Hence, one run will be added to the batting team's total and the bowler would have to bowl that delivery again.


How many bouncers can you have in one over in IPL?

To provide a more even playing field between bat and ball, bowlers will be permitted to deliver two bouncers every over in the IPL 2024. This modification to the playing conditions was tested out in the domestic T20 competition in India, the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, in 2023–2024.

Is 2nd bouncer a no-ball?

Each over, there are two permissible bouncers that cross the batsman's shoulder but land below his head. Despite the two-bouncer rule, it is theoretically deemed a wide if the ball clears the batsman's head.

How many bouncers are allowed in an over in the World Cup?

In T20I World Cups, bowlers are limited to one bouncer every over, which increases to two per over in One-Day International (ODI) World Cups, under International Cricket Council (ICC) rules.

To stop intimidation, the ICC implemented a rule in 1991 allowing one bouncer per batsman every over, which was later modified to two bouncers per over in 1994. 

Subhayan Dutta
Subhayan DuttaSports Writer

An M.A. in English Literature, Subhayan is an experienced journalist and sports writer. Having worked as a journalist at Hindustan Times, Subhayan covered diverse beats including sports, education, and health, showcasing his versatility and in-depth understanding of various subjects.