Understanding No Balls in Cricket: A Complete Guide

Learn about all types of no-ball deliveries in cricket, including overstepping and throwing before delivery. Know about various types of no-balls in cricket.

1st Test - Australia v South Africa: Day 5
Subhayan Dutta

Written by: Subhayan Dutta

(Sports Writer)

Fact checked by: Louis Hobbs

(Senior Sports Writer)

Last updated: 2024-05-13

7 minutes read

In cricket, various rules ensure fairness between batters and bowlers, with one crucial regulation being the no-ball. A no ball in cricket refers to an illegal delivery bowled by the bowler, leading to an extra run being awarded to the batting team. Let’s look at all types of no balls in cricket.

In addition to the extra run, in limited-over formats, a no ball also grants the batting team a free hit opportunity. Importantly, a no ball delivery is not counted as one of the bowler's six legal deliveries required to complete an over. This rule applies in One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and Twenty20 (T20) cricket, where a no-ball is followed by a free hit for the batting side.

No balls, wides, byes, leg byes, and penalties constitute the five types of extras in cricket. Among these, the no ball stands out as the only extra with multiple variants. Let's delve deeper into the various types of no balls in cricket and how they impact the game.

All Types of No Ball: Get the full list

Front Foot No Ball in Cricket

A front-foot no-ball in cricket occurs when no part of the bowler’s foot is behind the popping crease at the point of delivery. The popping crease is a line approximately four feet parallel from the stumps. To ensure a legal delivery, the bowler must have some part of their foot behind the popping crease upon landing. Even if the foot slides ahead after landing, the delivery is legal as long as part of it was behind the crease at the time of landing.

Image Credits: @Nomancricket29 (X Account)

Image Credits: @Nomancricket29 (X Account)

Back foot No ball

In cricket, a backfoot no-ball is signalled by the umpire when the trailing foot of the bowler crosses or touches the return crease at the time of releasing the ball. The return crease consists of two lines on either side of the wicket, perpendicular to the bowling and popping creases. It delineates the area where the bowler must deliver the ball from.

According to Law 21.5 of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), which governs cricket laws, "The bowler's back foot must land within and not touch the return crease appertaining to his/her stated mode of delivery—behind the popping crease." If the umpire at the bowler's end determines that any of these three conditions are not met, they are required to call and signal a no-ball.

Waist-High No ball

A no-ball for height is called by the umpire when a bowler delivers a full toss above the waist of the batsman. According to the ICC's match clause 41 regarding unfair play, if a bowler bowls two waist-high full tosses (also known as beamers) in a match, the umpire has the authority to prevent the bowler from bowling any further if they deem the non-pitching deliveries to be dangerous, posing a potential risk of injury to the batsman at the striker’s end.

Image Credits: @Depressed_fello( X Account)

Image Credits: @Depressed_fello( X Account)

No ball: Bouncing over the head

As per the Marylebone Cricket Club's (MCC) Law 21.10 governing no balls, the umpire has the authority to signal a no ball if the ball bowled by a bowler passes over or would have passed over the head of the striker while standing upright in the popping crease. Additionally, under Law 41.6 and 41.7, the on-field umpire can declare a no ball if they observe the bowler continuously bowling dangerous and unfair short-pitched deliveries. 

No ball: Delivery pitching outside the playing area

When a bowler delivers a ball that pitches outside the playing area or the cut strip (a line parallel to the wide line), either partially or entirely before reaching the striker, the umpire has the authority to declare it as a no ball.

No ball: Bowler breaking wickets while delivery

If a bowler releases a delivery and the non-striker remains within the crease without attempting a run, the umpire may call the delivery a no ball if the bowler disturbs the wickets at the non-striker’s end after the ball has been put into play but before completing the delivery stride. This rule also applies if any clothing or object falls onto the stumps and causes them to break during the delivery stride.

Before 2013, if the stumps at the non-striker’s end were broken during the bowler’s delivery stride, the ball was considered dead. However, this rule was amended in 2013 following an incident involving England fast bowler Steven Finn, who repeatedly broke the stumps during a Test match against South Africa at Headingley in 2012.

No ball: Ball throwing (Chucking) 

In cricket, chucking refers to an illegal bowling action where a bowler extends their bowling arm beyond the permissible limit. According to the law, bowlers are permitted a maximum elbow or arm extension of up to 15 degrees. Failure to adhere to this limit will result in the delivery being declared as a no ball.

Image Credits: Cricbuzz (X Account)

Image Credits: Cricbuzz (X Account)

No ball: Underarm Delivery

As per Law 21.1.2 in cricket, a ball delivered underarm by a bowler will be deemed a no-ball unless there is a special agreement in place. Underarm bowling, also known as lob bowling, has been prohibited since the infamous 1981 World Series match when Trevor Chappell bowled an underarm ball for Australia, a move that sparked controversy as New Zealand needed six runs off the final ball of the match to win. 

No ball: Throwing the ball towards the striker before delivery

If a bowler releases the ball towards the striker before completing their delivery stride, the umpire will rule the delivery as a no ball.

No ball: Failure to notify umpires mode of delivery 

According to Law 21.1.1 of the MCC rules, a bowler is required to inform the umpire of their bowling intentions, such as right-handed or left-handed, pace or spin, and whether they will bowl over or round the wicket, before delivering the ball. Failure to do so may result in the umpire signalling a no ball. 

No ball: Dielder intercepting delivery

If a ball delivered by the bowler touches any fielder before reaching the striker, their bat, or passes above the stumps, the umpire has the authority to declare the delivery as a no ball. In such a case, the umpire will signal it as a dead ball immediately.

No ball: Breaching number of fielders on the On-side

As per Law 28.4 of the MCC rules, a fielding team is allowed to position no more than two fielders behind square leg, excluding the wicketkeeper. If there is a violation of this rule, the umpire will declare the delivery as a no ball.

Image Credit: @KeithBruce2 (X Account)

Image Credit: @KeithBruce2 (X Account)

No ball: Delivery coming to rest before reaching the striker

As per Law 21.8, a delivery will be deemed a no ball if it comes to rest in front of the striker without making contact with the striker or their bat after the bowler has released it.

No ball: Wicket-keeper stands in front of stumps

As per Law 27.3.1 in cricket, the wicketkeeper is required to stay completely behind the stumps at the striker’s end once the ball is in play. If the wicket-keeper collects the ball in front of the stumps or lines with the stumps before it touches the batter or the batter's body, the umpire may signal a no ball. However, if the batters attempt a run, then the wicketkeeper is permitted to collect the ball in front of the stumps.

Subhayan Dutta

Subhayan Dutta

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.

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