Mark Nicholas
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Former Hampshire batsman; host of Channel Nine's cricket coverage

Is the no-ball law too exact?

Most rules are in favour of the batsman. Maybe it is time to give bowlers the line at least

Mark Nicholas

November 21, 2012

Comments: 88 | Text size: A | A

James Pattinson bowls Hashim Amla with a no-ball, Australia v South Africa, first Test, day five, Brisbane, November 13, 2012
Pattinson takes a wicket off a no-ball: the game has been duped by the search for precision in judgement © Getty Images
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There is a picture in today's Sydney Morning Herald of James Pattinson bowling in the nets at the Adelaide Oval. It is a no-ball of course. Did you ever see a bowler behind the line in the nets? Not often. At Brisbane in the first Test, four wickets were taken by no-balls - three of them after referrals by the umpire. Both sides were guilty and both captains rather shrugged it off. Embarrassment perhaps.

There is an excuse for no-balls during a match - adrenaline. But there can be no excuse in practice. If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail. This an old Graham Gooch saying, so stop whatever you are doing for a second and imagine it in Goochie's voice - high pitch East End of London in a slow drone; a gem is it not? And he is right. Preparation may not be everything but it sure helps.

The best piece of no-ball captaincy came in the 1992 World Cup final, when Imran Khan told Wasim Akram, a serial offender, to forget about it. "Overstep all you like" was the theme, "but for goodness sake bowl the speed of light and win us this damn thing." Which, of course, the great man did. The secret being that Imran released Akram from the fear of no-balling by making it okay. It is a bit like the kid at school being told that smoking is fine: "Oh, pity, no fun in that then." Imran knew the problem could not be fixed out in the middle, and given this was the final his fastest gun might as well fire all his bullets. Which he did, thus mowing down England and bringing Pakistan cricket its finest hour.

Akram was by no means the only top-class bowler to suffer. Amongst quite a list, Malcolm Marshall had problems. Jeff Thomson too. In fact, it is easier to count the bowlers who have not had no-ball issues than those who have. Most famous among the clean are Michael Holding and Sir Ian Botham. Four between them in a combined 162 Tests - remarkable given the physical extremes of their performance.

All these guys threw down a disc or scratched out a mark, an established number of paces back from the crease. Nowadays the coaches and their charges are out there with a tape measure, brush and emulsion. There are more lines around the 20-metre mark than on Keith Richards' forehead. Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee spent the Brisbane Test in the Channel 9 commentary box and were at a loss in trying to explain this infuriating issue. They reckon you can measure all you like but that stride patterns change depending on the moment, the mood, the wind, the outfield and the gradient to the pitch. McGrath used the umpire, the stumps and the crease as peripheral reference points but accepted that no formula ever gave him security or consistency.

My suspicion is that law is too exact. It used to be a loose application of a back-foot law that umpires and bowler worked together on, with the umpire ensuring that the bowler did not gain an unreasonable advantage. Essentially, the bowler had to land his back foot behind the back crease, or bowling crease as it was called, but could then drag his foot pretty much as far as he liked. This resulted in the "draggers", as they were known - and Fred Trueman was one - often landing their front foot well over the popping crease. Umpires monitored this until the unfair advantage outweighed the flow of the game. Then they would tell the bowler to get back a bit, even if he was still landing his back foot within the law. One big advantage of the old law was the time available to the umpire to call a no-ball and the time batsmen had to react, effectively allowing a free hit.

MCC changed the law in 1962, when Sir George Allen, who was convinced bowlers were claiming a huge advantage, ignored Sir Donald Bradman's reasoning and convinced the Laws committee that a new front-foot no-ball law would serve the game better. It is a moot point.

Sprinting to the crease in an effort to bowl fast cannot be an exact physical effort. The law now states that some part of the bowler's front foot, grounded or raised, should land behind the popping crease, but usually there are no more than millimetres for the umpires to play with because most bowlers are so tight to that line. The line is marked with whitewash and is of random width. It quickly scuffs and erodes. The man adjudicating is standing well behind the bowling crease and his view is complicated by the parallax. He cannot hope to get them all correct, and in the age of trial by television technology, line decisions are considered a given for the camera.

It is too simplistic to say that bowlers should get back behind the line. Were it easy, they would all do it. They hate no-balls more than us

So it is to that, and to the third umpire operating it, the on-field umpire turns when in doubt. Consequently the game stops and bizarrely everyone stands around in a self-perpetuated hiatus, waiting for the verdict. The thrill of the fall of wicket, the instant and riveting human drama that comes with it, is completely lost. The game has been duped by the search for precision in judgement. Batsmen are reprieved because of an irrelevant centimetre from which neither team gained advantage or suffered disadvantage. Bradman's average would have shot past the Grail if the front-foot law and technology had been around in his day.

It is too simplistic to say that bowlers should get back behind the line. McGrath's reasoning is convincing on this. Were it easy, they would all do it. They hate no-balls more than us. For a reason that is inexplicable to outsiders, bowlers seem unable to land in the box - or very few of them anyway, and Ben Hilfenhaus is one - because they are conditioned to use the popping crease line as their target. This should not stop them establishing a more disciplined rhythm and routine in practice but it does mean we should examine other solutions.

I would give bowlers the line, altering the law to say that they clearly have to land beyond the popping crease to be called. This gives the umpires some daylight to play with and takes away the confusion of the whitewashed line that begins a day with enough clarity but is soon wiped from existence. I would allow the umpires more feel in the decision-making, more reference to whether or not a clear, certain advantage is being gained by the bowler.

Most laws are set for batsmen, who incidentally can take guard where they choose - in or out of the crease, for example, and why should that be when the bowler is so scrutinised? Batsmen can switch-hit, reverse-hit, Dilscoop, charge down the pitch, back away, move inside the line at any time without any penalty. It is a white-collar world that batsmen inhabit. The bowlers remain blue collar and the game is worse for it. Give them a bit back and then, if needs must, hit them harder still for transgressing.

I can hear the catcalls already!

Mark Nicholas, the former Hampshire captain, presents the cricket on Channel 9 in Australia and Channel 5 in the UK

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Posted by PanGlupek on (November 22, 2012, 21:41 GMT)

Can't see any way in which that would improve the game whatsoever. I've had no-ball problems for years & if I get a wicket off a ball where I overstep by even a milimetre, I got nobody to blame but myself. All bowlers know that deep-down.

Trying to justify this by saying batsmen can stand where they want & switch-hit, etc is nonsense: If you stand out of your ground, you risk being stumped. If you switch-hit, you risk looking like an idiot if you get it wrong.

If a batsman gets something even a centimetre wrong, it can result in dismissal. If a bowler gets it wrong, they get to bowl the ball again.

Posted by   on (November 22, 2012, 16:24 GMT)

"The thrill of the fall of wicket, the instant and riveting human drama that comes with it, is completely lost. The game has been duped by the search for precision in judgement." Don't understand why - because there is enough technology to sniff out this transgression totally on-line, totally in real time. It is used in tennis; without pausing games. In any case, the point is, there is technology available to take care of this in real time - without interruptions, - if it needs to be done.

Posted by jmcilhinney on (November 22, 2012, 13:48 GMT)

I can't see the point in changing the rule. You have to draw the line somewhere and some bowlers will overstep no matter where it is. Every bowler knows where they have to put their foot so if they can't do it they deserve to be no-balled. All they need to do is err on the side of caution. If moving their mark back 6" won't fix it then move it back a foot.

Posted by thirst on (November 22, 2012, 12:09 GMT)

The most compelling entertainment is an even contest.

Posted by MAK123 on (November 22, 2012, 11:57 GMT)

I suppose there was a time when the umpire used call even those bowlers landing their front foot behind the bowling I right?

Posted by Masking_Tape on (November 22, 2012, 9:00 GMT)

I like that fact that it's "too exact" as the he puts it. Unlike the LBW rule which I just hate, it's causing way too much pain. No grey area in this.

If they change the no ball rule, they will have to change the runout rule as well...

Posted by Punters_Mate on (November 22, 2012, 8:44 GMT)

Free hit front foot no ball in one day cricket has all but eliminated the no ball. What difference in pace would occur if bowlers landed behind the front line? About 5 eigths of 4 tenths of bugger all. You are letting bowlers off the hook for sloppy training and practice standards. A free hit for no balls in test cricket would eradicate the problem overnight.

Posted by dmat on (November 22, 2012, 7:34 GMT)

To all those "romantics" who think we should re-introduce the back foot rule - it has never been tested by technology like the front foot rule. In my opinio, it would be a farce, I think Nicholas knows this, he's just stirring.

Posted by Mad_Hamish on (November 22, 2012, 2:38 GMT)

If you loosen the laws then you open up the accusations of bias. Imagine if it was a tight finish to a test match and Morkel has Tendulkar caught behind and the replay shows that Morkel was on the line at best...

As to fine lines it doesn't matter how little of the bat hits the ball you can still be out caught...

Posted by Cricket_theBestGame on (November 22, 2012, 1:55 GMT)

the easiest way is to get the bowlers land behind the front line or popping crease. period. the whole foot must be behind the front line. you are right, the mm/cm gained by the bowlers absoultley makes no advantage. but the law is law and i'm glad its being enforced. bowlers should aim to bowl behind the front line not aim for the heel to land on it.

as for the batsman taking guard, well if he comes further towards bowler he himself is putting in disadvantage isn't he?! who wants a steyn rocket or morne's lifter that much closer to him !

Posted by D.V.C. on (November 22, 2012, 0:51 GMT)

Good sentiment, but simply replacing one front foot line for another only moves the problem an inch down the pitch. Perhaps the back foot line would be better, as that last stretch tends to be the most inconsistent and varying part of a bowler's delivery.

Posted by attilathecricketer on (November 22, 2012, 0:35 GMT)

At last someone supporting bowlers. That said I would merely give bowlers the line. Not sure about dragging etc.

Posted by Zan46 on (November 22, 2012, 0:11 GMT)

From Canada - Rules are rules and if the bowler breaks the rules he should be punished for his crime. If the cricketing governing body changes the rules of the game in mid-stream, then the concensus of the people looking in will think this is a wishy washy game - rules can be changed in midstream because bowlers are taking wickets with an illegal delivery so we have to change the rules to satisfy them - BS - if you want cricket to develop in a country like Canada and USA or South America their best would be to leave everything as is. Do the governing body change rules in baseball, hockey. american football, soccer or any other sport to satisfy certain players - NO. This topic should be dropped like hot bread - as for the commentators who commentate they should just shut up and commentata on the game and do not talk about rule change - they are ridiculous.

Posted by Simoc on (November 22, 2012, 0:06 GMT)

This current no-ball law is working very well. Quite obviously centimetres do matter to bowler and batsman. They're no-balling on their extra effort balls and 1cm makes all the difference in an edge going up or down. The commentators need things to ramble on about so I understand their need to create issues. They're just wrong.

Posted by Chadsta on (November 21, 2012, 23:56 GMT)

This day in age, cricket is the player's employment. So how would you like it if you were unfairly dismissed from work? That is exactly what happens when you're given out when it is an illegal delivery. Unlike DRS, front foot no ball is much clearer as it's not predicting the future, it is reporting on something that has happened. There is no grey area; there is a clear line in the sand - on the pitch in this case. So, if the runs have been dry; and you're given out off a no ball may be your last innings. This could've been the innings you turned your luck around. But instead your career has ended, and no more income from cricket. Unfair Dismissal.

If it's a front foot no ball, it's great that the umpires aren't shy to go upstairs. What I suggest is this. If the batsmen at the non-striker's end is out of the crease (backing up too far) then let it be a legal delivery. This will not only penalise bowlers, but will also penalise batsmen when they are gaining an unfair advantage.

Posted by Antir on (November 21, 2012, 23:20 GMT)

Wow most the comments in relation to this article have completely ignored the problem that has been raised.

It is a lot easier for bowlers to control where their back foot lands. The front foot rule means they should bowl within the crease but it is a lot harder to judge where to land as a bowler to get it right. In fact a bowler lands his front foot differently depending on what they intend to bowl for that ball.

The last thing you want a bowler to think about is where he is landing on the crease. Bowlers need confidence in their run up. The front foot rule tests the confidence of the bowler more than the back foot rule.

The rules do not exist to suck the fun out of the game. Rules should not exist to put pressure on the player. Rules should not unfairly punish extra effort.

The other problem is that the technology is becoming more important but it should not dominate the game. It will destroy the game we love.

Posted by scotty-wilson1 on (November 21, 2012, 23:17 GMT)

Why not introduce the "free hit" rule into test matches to try an stop this

Posted by   on (November 21, 2012, 22:47 GMT)

Like the different perspective you have taken here Mark, but the no-ball has been brought down to millimeters by the bowlers themselves and no one else. you go back to the rule before the 60's and you will still have the same issues. If every bowler practices landing their toes near the popping crease and not the heel, it will cease to exist in the millimeter scale. Bowlers want to push the boundary and its only fair they pay the price for crossing the line. There are very few rules in cricket that are so clearly laid out. And while we are at making the no-balls more negotiable, why not remove the third umpire for run-outs as well and make the popping crease a foot-wide broad line than it being just an inch-wide?

Posted by KPWij on (November 21, 2012, 22:39 GMT)

I don't necessarily mind the rule change, it will be consistent with sports like tennis where the player owns the entire line. BUT in saying this I don't think it is required. I am a Michael Holding fan, and I am pretty certain every bowler can control this aspect, if they can't it is a weakness to their bowling no matter how good you are. The evidence lies with one-day and T20 cricket, by increasing the penalty for the no-ball in the limited overs format of the game, bowlers have improved out of sight in keeping there foot behind the line. Bowlers can do it, and they should be punished if they don't. Plus who doesn't like the drama of a bowler celebrating a potential wicket and then made to look a little sheepish for the error of their ways? I am an opening bowler... so I know the pain and have had my troubles but those are the rules and bowlers need to learn to adapt to it!

Posted by   on (November 21, 2012, 22:10 GMT)

I reckon take it back to how it used to be. No third umpire on no-balls. Batsmen don't deserve a reprieve for 1mm and it doesn't change his shot. It should be the umpire calls no-ball and the batsman has the potential to take a risky shot knowing he can't be out.

Posted by sparth on (November 21, 2012, 22:01 GMT)

No it isn't "too exact". By the way, nothing can be "too exact". It is either exact or not exact. The word exact doesn't have a continous scale. In regards to the article, if there were no stict laws governing when a ball is no longer legal, then it becomes too much into the umpire's discretion which will be unfair on the game. Therefore I believe that this article didn't really have much value and was only written to try and cause some sort of controversy. Please in future, write articles that actually are useful to the game

Posted by   on (November 21, 2012, 20:04 GMT)

Keep the overstepping rule same but allow one overstepping no ball per over as long as some part of the backfoot is behind the popping crease. As a tactic one could argure that it might create a suspense in batsman's mind that the next one might be slightly quicker. But, I don't think the bowler's would want to aim to do that in order to get that one delivery which is fractionally faster. On the other hand it would definitely relieve the burden from bowler's mind that as long as there is one no-ball left, he can actually focus on bowling.

Posted by   on (November 21, 2012, 18:28 GMT)

Laws are meant to be exact, that's their purpose. In professional sport, if you give leeway participants will stretch it. If you grant leeway, bowlers will start overstepping by one inch. Then another will overstep by 2 and it will spiral out of control. No balls are so rare in T20's and ODI's and that shows me that it is possible for bowlers to control it. Besides, if a batsman is out of his ground by half an inch he will still be run out or stumped.

Posted by johnathonjosephs on (November 21, 2012, 18:24 GMT)

Is Mark Nicholas serious? What's next: because the bowlers are disadvantaged they should move the line forward one foot? Bowlers are disadvantaged but something like this is ridiculous. I say for fast bowlers in Tests, allow 3 bouncers per over and bring back the days of aggressive fast bowling. The only reason people are in love with fast bowlers is because the Australia duo of the 80's (Thompson and Lillee) and the West Indian fast bowlers of the 80's really romanticized fast bowling and made it fun to watch. Bring back aggressive bowling (allowing 3 bouncers) and you will get some good cricket

Posted by StaalBurgher on (November 21, 2012, 18:02 GMT)

With this new method of referring no-balls on a wicket-ball in the long run bowlers will just learn to bowl further back because the cost of a wicket is very high. However I like the suggestions here that during the REVIEW the line belongs to the bowler, i.e. similar to LBWs only a howler should be corrected. If the bowlers foot is slightly over and the umpire did not call it then tough luck to the batsmen. Because the other problem is that the umpire "thinks" the bowler is overstepping but is not sure so does not call it. The bowler continues to think he is fine and then gets reviewed when he takes a wicket. It sounds somewhat misleading and definitely needs corrections somehow.

Posted by mike-t on (November 21, 2012, 17:58 GMT)

Sorry, Mark. Usually I agree with what you say - and I know Ritchie Benaud no less is of the same opinion as you. However, there HAS to be a point over which the bowler cannot go otherwise the encroachment will increase steadily - exactly what happened with the back foot law, in fact. Long jumpers can hit a mark virtually to the millimetre, so why not fast bowlers? The problem, as you yourself say, lies with the lack of attention to detail in the nets and this happens from the youngest juniors, through club cricketers, to the highest level. There's no excuse, frankly.

Posted by gandhala on (November 21, 2012, 17:55 GMT)

Disagree Mark . Certain laws should be changed for sure. More than the front foot No Ball the beamer should be given free hit for sure. Bring in this law I am sure the beamers will decrease drastically.Most of them are intentional. We just cant allow human killers. Agreed its again advantage batsman but its about life.

Posted by chetan129 on (November 21, 2012, 17:39 GMT)

what I feel is no-ball call should be handled by the third empire, like a red light or any other signal if it is a no ball visible to the field umpire. This elimiantes the error and gives the Ground Empire to concentrate on the nicks and LBW's more instead of looking down for the no ball and instantly looking up at the delivery.

Posted by voice_of_reason on (November 21, 2012, 17:24 GMT)

I can't see the logic in MN's arguments here. Firstly, John Biddle has got the technical aspects of the laws correct. (November 21 2012, 05:35 AM GMT). Secondly, it is often stated that things are weighted in favour of the batsmen because they can play scoop shots, switch hits, back away etc. So what? What about bowlers using the crease, bowling variations, like googlies and doosras and slower balls and reverse swing? Is that unfair to the batsman? There have to be some fixed points and the appropriate creases are lines that mark where the bowler must bowl from and the ground that the batsman must make/be within when a fielder removes the bails in live play. Simple as, surely?

Posted by Deanwsmith on (November 21, 2012, 16:11 GMT)

I agree that the law needs to be exact, but I don't believe the umpire should be able to review a no ball after the fact. If the umpire doesn't call it at the time, that should be the end of the story. Umpires should only be allowed to call a no ball at the time of delivery. Should the umpire call a no ball, then so be it, the bowler and batsman will know immediately. If the no ball is missed, then it is the fault of the umpire. This would help the game run more smoothly.

Posted by beyondcricket on (November 21, 2012, 15:32 GMT)

I am not reading this article, but i am going to comment because too much of this no ball issue was heard during the first aus-eng test. fact of the matter is you have to have a line the bowlers' front leg shouldn't cross. Like batsmen are given run out unless they have some part of the bat beyond the line! simple!

You cant find excuses for indiscipline bowling, its a game everybody has same rules and its not a batsmen's game atleast in test cricket!

Posted by   on (November 21, 2012, 15:19 GMT)

@TopC...Exactly man! that's what I'm trying to say I'm with you on that statement.

Posted by   on (November 21, 2012, 15:18 GMT)

Yeah but bowlers are the ones that have the ball in their hands so that's already a bog advantage to them. Batsman when out stay out while bowlers has many deliveries to get rid of the Batsman so the benefit of the doubt has to go to Batsman in my opinion.

Posted by bumsonseats on (November 21, 2012, 15:10 GMT)

theres no reason for a bowler to be that tight to the line.they could be 5cm back with no lose of pace/direction/bounce. to say that the bowler should gain over a batter makes no sense.its just mark keeping his paymasters and the aussie majority of supporters happy. if they were tearaway you could maybe understand it

Posted by shortsillypoint on (November 21, 2012, 14:35 GMT)

Sloppy planning and attitude mean some bowlers bowl more no balls than others. If you watch the frequent offenders at the top of their run they are inconsistent in their starting marks and they don't compensate for any over-stretching with that extra effort ball.

Would they bowl any better / faster if they were at least 10 cm behind the mark every ball?

Posted by luks on (November 21, 2012, 14:25 GMT)

Yeah, right. So, rules should be fuzzy and umpires should decide whether a bowler is getting an "unreasonable advantage". And, pray who is going to define reasonable and how will that be done? You see the problem? Replacing exact rules with inexact rules won't reduce the problem, it will increase the problem. Atleast, its objective now. If you bring subjectivity into it, it will be worse.

Posted by   on (November 21, 2012, 14:08 GMT)

Agree, totally, if your foot lands on the line, it should be a legal delivery, so many pitches in world cricket, have varying gradients, leading up to the wicket. Batsmen have so much in their favour, most often is the wicket has been trimmed so short of grass, they can bat on them for days, because they are so slow, and true. As a former fast bowler, and middle order batsman, the pitches favoured the batsmen, 28 odd years ago, and the dibbly-dobbly, slow medium pacers, took wickets, or restricted the RPO. Cricket is an attacking game, but since Michael Vaughan, and other negative Captains, have been introduced to our great game, it has gone backwards. MS Dhoni, is so negative, and the worst Captain, in world cricket.

Posted by MattyLeeC on (November 21, 2012, 13:43 GMT)

It is not too simplistic to tell them to simply get back behind the line. That is their job, and in the case of international players, a 6 figure job. So they should be able to do the most simple task of their job, which is bowl a legal delivery. They should have their run up and delivery stride down to an exact science. For Brett Lee to claim adrenaline and your stride getting longer is a joke. Atleast Mark did mention Michael Holding and I remember a quote from him that all bowlers should hear "There is no excuse for bowling a no ball. The front line never moves."

Posted by dmat on (November 21, 2012, 13:37 GMT)

It doesn't matter whether "we give the bowlers the line" they will still overstep, so the problem is not solved - just shifted. Any bowler taking a wicket with a no ball should be ashamed to look his team mates in the eye - he has let the side down! Worse than this, those "non wickets" ruined the GABBA test. The problem is not with the rules or the technology - it is with the bowlers and the coaches (both highly paid at international level).

Posted by o-bomb on (November 21, 2012, 13:34 GMT)

I can't agree with this article. It's not too simplistic at all to say the bowlers should just get behind the line; it's right to say that. There is no excuse for bowling a no-ball. The rule is there (as it has to be) and it really isn't difficult to not overstep. If the likes of Hilfenhaus and Finn (and I'm sure many others) can bowl a whole spell or bowl for an entire match without overstepping, there is no reason other bowlers can't. If you move the point of no-ball to the front of the line rather than the back of it, bowlers will simply adjust their run up accordingly and we'll still have the likes of Morkel, Pattinson (and many, many others) no-balling.

Posted by   on (November 21, 2012, 13:24 GMT)

This so called "spirit of the game" and opposition to be exact with measurements,, what is it really? Perhaps an excuse for umpire's to favour a particular team when it suits the broadcasters and the hosts? What kind of a person doesn't like exact measurements to be applied? Someone who wants the rules to be applied inconsistently.

Posted by Faridoon on (November 21, 2012, 12:51 GMT)

Dear Mark, As a former fast bowler (ok, maybe in my own head only!), I agree that bowlers get the short end always. But with regards to the no-ball, it has to be exact mate. Whether it's the back foot or the back foot, the line must be drawn somewhere. We cannot leave it to umpire's discretion. Thats why we now lines to demarcate the wide deliveries so that there is consistency in the umpire's judgement. I think having some part of the front boot behind the line is quite fair to everyone, to be honest.

I do think, though, that with the advent of hawkeye the lbw rule has room for being less batsman friendly. Lets do away with the 'pitched outside leg' criteria. All in favor...

Posted by thirst on (November 21, 2012, 12:46 GMT)

Great article and spot on Mark. Any fool who disagrees with the game's greatest player (Sir Don) should be banned from any position of influence. Bradman rose to be the best player ever by knowing everything there is to know about the game and then transcending it. This fool who over-ruled him and any other other fool who agrees with this ridiculous front foot rule simply DOES NOT understand what makes cricket great. It is not television, millimetre measurements, slow mo cameras, huge stadiums, replays, hot spots, etc, etc. Cricket is great because of the contest between man and ball, man and bat, man and man, man and himself. Give the spirit of the game a chance...

Posted by V-Man_ on (November 21, 2012, 12:45 GMT)

I don't understand why it is so hard to stop these no ball. i have been playing cricket for 16 years and i have bowled no more than 4 front foot no balls. i have trained myself to land half of my foot behind the line. i bet these guys are bowling 99% of their deliveries no ball at training. and dont agree with changing the law. then ppl will start talking about changing the stumping rule.

Posted by TopC on (November 21, 2012, 12:44 GMT)

Batsmen get only one chance; bowlers get six each over...the odds are already stacked towards the bowler!

Posted by ScottStevo on (November 21, 2012, 12:22 GMT)

It's not an issue of the changing the law, it's an issue of using the third umpire. There should only be one decision to make here, either all deliveries are reviewed by technology or they're all reviewed via the on field umpire. Otherwise it's unfair on the bowlers who hit a rhythm and aren't being called for marginal no balls by on field umpires who are then checking for no balls only on deliveries that take wickets. Either the umpire is adjudicating deliveries to be legal and the buck stops there and there aren't any referrals, or every single delivery is scrutinised. This current scenario is becoming rather annoying and a decision must be made pronto... Personally, I don't care which method is used as most times umpires catch the deliveries that are horribly illegal; and the ones that are marginal donn't really making that much of a difference anyway. But I can already hear the complaining over no balls going undetected where techonology is available to check so tech gets the nod..

Posted by BnH1985Fan on (November 21, 2012, 11:55 GMT)

Finally, Mark brings up a topic that has been on my mind for a long time. Baseball and cricket offer a stark contrast, one that I use to explain the difference. The former is a pitcher (bowler) oriented game; cricket is a batting oriented game. In BB one gets 27 outs (or more if extra innings) while it takes 20 in cricket. And yet, BB game is typically over in 3 hours, while 5 6 hour days may not suffice for a cricket match to deliver results. Time to take a look at the laws and time to give the bowlers some advantage in a game that is otherwise so tilted towards batsmen.

Posted by   on (November 21, 2012, 11:49 GMT)

I normally like MN's stuff, but this is nonsense. Cricket has too many decisions that casue doubt as it is. "One umpire says it's a no ball..another says it isn't"

The reason the law is as it is is so that the umpire can SEE the line "hidden" as it were. Now it's if the line is visible - it's a no ball, but the alternative is "Now - did I see the whole line then - or just most of it? It's a "digital" decision - yes or no. The "did I see the whole line or just some of it" is not it's open to error and debate.

Posted by Biggus on (November 21, 2012, 11:41 GMT)

As others have suggested, moving the cut-off point won't solve anything since bowlers will merely adjust their run-ups to use any new room. So sure am I of this I am proposing a new law of Physics/Cricket. I shall call it 'Pascoe's law', in honour of that great overstepper Len Pascoe, and it goes something like this, "That no matter where the no-ball line is set any given bowler will bowl legal deliveries and no-balls at a set ratio", or NB/LD=X, where X is any given bowler's 'Pascoe value'. As that value tends towards 1 the more Pascoe-like they are. Of course Len's real surname was Durtanovich, but trying to name drop 'Durtanovich's Law' into a witty conversation seems like hard work, so 'Pascoe's Law' it is.

Posted by Vindaliew on (November 21, 2012, 11:37 GMT)

Bowlers will be less prone to no-balls if they didn't try to maximise the distance advantage, so it's a risk bowlers take if they want to push the law to the limit. When I played I always marked my run-up and aimed to land my toes around the popping crease, giving me a good margin of error if I overstretched one of my steps or something. It didn't stop me from no-balling occasionally, but if I had aimed to get my heel just behind the popping crease I'm sure I'd have a lot more. Bowlers are not machines, but laws have to be exact in order to eliminate bias and subjectivity (especially in the age of DRS). Like the boy who tried to grab too many sweets and couldn't get his hand out of the jar, bowlers should perhaps not try to gain every single milisecond of delivery advantage, or if they do they should be prepared to pay the price if things don't go according to plan.

Posted by drinks.break on (November 21, 2012, 11:32 GMT)

Bowlers who aim well back of the line will be no more or less effective for the loss of 10-15 cm.

At 10 cm back, a bowler effectively loses less than 0.6% of their pace. That means that a 120 km/h bowler effectively becomes a 119.3 km/h bowler, while a 150 km/h bowler effectively becomes 149.2 km/h.

Bowlers vary their pace between deliveries by much more than that without trying. On a bad day, a bowler can be below pace by as much as 10 km/h, which is far worse than any loss of pace from stepping behind the line rather than on it ... and is made even worse when they get a wicket off a no-ball anyway!

Posted by FieryFerg on (November 21, 2012, 11:29 GMT)

It would be interesting to ask how many of those giving Mark stick for this are bowlers as some obviously have no idea of the processes involved in running in and bowling as fast as you can. @shwet14 'aim for an imaginary line 4 inches back' - if the bowler is doing that, they aren't concentrating on where the ball is going. You run in looking at, or visualising, the point you wish the ball to land or arrive at the batsman. If you're thinking about your feet you've lost it! Best bet would be going back to the old back foot rule. The current back foot rule is only sporadically applied anyway. If it was properly enforced Shaun Tait would have had most of his wickets disallowed.

Posted by RandyOZ on (November 21, 2012, 11:07 GMT)

I cannot understand why Mark isn't writing anymore articles about England? What happened to brilliant articles such as ' Fortress England'?

Posted by Harvey on (November 21, 2012, 10:58 GMT)

How can a law be "too exact?" So we should make the law more vague so that nobody knows where they stand? Yeah, right. Bowlers can't control where their foot lands? Well most seem to manage it in one day cricket since the free hit rule was introduced.

Posted by inefekt on (November 21, 2012, 10:54 GMT)

"The thrill of the fall of wicket, the instant and riveting human drama that comes with it, is completely lost. "

Can't agree more with this statement. Us fans now have to temper any celebrations at the fall of a wicket for fear it will be sent upstairs (which it is being done more often than not). It completely takes away from the moment. The sooner they fix this absurd rule the better off the game will be.

Posted by tpjpower on (November 21, 2012, 10:44 GMT)

Mark's argument isn't particularly clear - is he hoping for a return to the backfoot rule, or (more bizarrely) for a 'rougher' approach to the calling of no-balls? Favouring the latter makes no sense to me. What's more, I think the umpires themselves would object to such a rule change. The technology allowing for the close scrutiny of no-balls is not going away, meaning a marginal overstep will always be picked up; consider the potential backlash from partisan fans should such a delivery dismiss a favourite batsman at a crucial stage of the game. Better that a clear rule exists, which can be enforced and checked by both the on-field umpires and the third umpire. Part of cricket's beauty lies in the fact that it is a game of such tiny margins, and unlike certain other sports (e.g. football), the pace and flow of the game can easily accomodate the use of technology.

Posted by KingofRedLions on (November 21, 2012, 10:30 GMT)

I believe what Nicholas is suggesting is that changing the law to favour the bowlers would give the umpires a clear indication of whether or not there is a no-ball, rather than wasting time up in the third umpires's box.

Posted by Hammond on (November 21, 2012, 10:30 GMT)

@Sreekantapuram Srinivas Rao- no matter what happens, 99.94 will always be out of everyones reach :)

Posted by InvisiblePJs on (November 21, 2012, 10:28 GMT)

@ darren1301 on (November 21 2012, 05:09 AM GMT)

Agree entirely with your take - and your last line was gold! Keep up the good work.

The front foot law is there - deal with it - it appears Messrs Holding & Botham had no problems with it. If you are going to relax the rule by saying 'oh the bowler was hardly over the line so it doesn't matter' you may as well say 'oh the batsman only edged it a little bit so we won't give him out'....

Just sayin'

Posted by   on (November 21, 2012, 9:07 GMT)

If the umpire cannot spot the noball so be it. The four decisions at Brisbane had huge impact on the result of the test match. Imagine had Amla been bowled, the bowler who was in fine rythm could have got Kallis and further more. This is a preposterous rule to ask the third umpire to check the legality of the delivery. Pyschologically the bowler loses the sensation in the mind and knows that it is mighty difficult to get the batsmen out again. The batsmen starts feeling better and if he is in fine nick, he will build on. The match is going to turn topsy turvy because of this rule. Also with all these rules favouring only the batters, the averages in high 50s will go into 60s and after sometime we will forget Gavaskar Greg Chappell etc who averaged in the low 50s which is sensational and you should add another 10 to compare a batsman of today's era and perhaps even more if you want o compare of next generation.

Posted by JohnnyRook on (November 21, 2012, 9:01 GMT)

I don't agree with aouthor on this at all. It is like saying cutoff for some exam shouldn't be 40 %, it should be 41%. Backfoot rule or frontfoot rule, there will always be a line beyond which even a millimeter is not allowed. And bowler will always try to reach as close as he can to that line result in the same dilemma all over again.

My solution would be to try electronic foot fault system like tennis. Current system of third umpire confirming it doesn't catch all noballs and it wastes loads of time. Electronic foot fault will fix both problems. In addition to that, it will also improve umpires decision making in other areas. As of now, Umpire has to monitor popping crease and then focus fully on the batsman in less than a second. Instead if we have an electronic system, umpire can stay focussed on batman. I can safely say that my decision making will sure improve. It is a lot more useful use of technology than hotspot/hawkeye and most likely cheaper too.

Posted by mrsingUmpire on (November 21, 2012, 8:56 GMT)

Don't really understand what is being suggested by: 'I would give bowlers the line, altering the law to say that they clearly have to land beyond the popping crease to be called.' Even now, 'the line' - popping crease belongs to the bowler. It is only when he clearly oversteps in the 'landing' of the front foot that he is called. Moving things a few centimeters, as already stated in a comment, won't solve the issue. The problem really is that the umpire at the bowler's end is in a hopeless position to make a hundred percent accurate line-call on the popping crease. This has to be accepted by all. Will we see a line-umpire introduced? Presently, the solution to the problem of dismissals off a no-ball (Must be many, as the ICC's stats should show) as introduced by the ICC, is to have the 3rd Ump look at the line call when a dismissal takes place. Maybe, guidelines could state that if , after viewing, it is still not clear, the 3rd Ump shall rule in favour of the bowlers

Posted by Nutcutlet on (November 21, 2012, 8:55 GMT)

@David Wise: spot on! Technology is available & DRS or no DRS, the checking of the bowler's front foot (or a transgression of the return crease which is sometimes seen) should be automatic. The onfield umpire shouldn't even have to make a referral to his off-field colleague. The words 'No ball!' or 'Good ball!' should be in his ear before he raises his finger (he''ll have to say something in either case, just to ensure the link is working!). Yes, there will be a minimum delay, but at least we'll be spared the faintly ridiculous sight of a player 50 yards away from the wicket standing about like a man looking for his dog. There is absolutely nothing to be gained from moving the no ball line from the back to the front. And if bowlers need to be given something for Christmas & beyond, give them (& us!) DRS, even in India! But for that to happen, the ICC will have to put its foot down, well & truly behind the line!

Posted by pitch_curator on (November 21, 2012, 8:50 GMT)

I think the solution is very simple. Bowlers just need to aim to finish 6-9 inches before the popping crease instead of trying to finish with the tip of the heel on the crease. There is no excuse. Look at the way the number of no balls have reduced after the free hit has been introduced in T20 and ODIs. It is just a question of practice. It is illogical to suggest change of laws. Tomorrow, batsmen will say during run outs and stumpings, relax the rule by a few centimeters -- the law is too exact. In this day and age where hot spot is being used to check if a nano centimeter of a bat has touched the ball, millimeters are a big deal. Ridiculous suggestion to relax the laws.

Posted by Hammond on (November 21, 2012, 8:31 GMT)

What is wrong with reverting to the back foot bowling rule? It worked for 150 years before the law was changed?

Posted by AB99 on (November 21, 2012, 8:07 GMT)

This is as close to perfection as one can get - even better than Sir Don - Michael Holding and Sir Ian Botham had four no-balls between them in a combined 162 Tests - remarkable given the physical extremes of their performance. This must be more that no-balls bowled by a spinner like Murali Kartik.

Posted by Beazle on (November 21, 2012, 8:03 GMT)

Why not throw out another law? Throwing has been allowed for nearly 10 years- so why not " no balls".

Posted by on (November 21, 2012, 7:52 GMT)

What a bizzare arguement and people agreeing to this... What logic is there in saying this law is too exact?

To suggest that millimeters are at best exceeded and can hardly give advantage to any bowlers - I completely agree but then U think the feather edges are more than a millimeter.. Is it also too Exact? should we change as it is hardly anything or otherway round when a batsmen misses a deliver with jst a daylight between, should we call it out since he was comprehensively beaten...

the logic or arguement is something that befuddles me, U might wanna change the law, but to suggest ah there is no advantage is frivilous.. Yes there shuld be more bowler friendly rules, but it doesnt mean justifying illegal...

I knw bowlers hate No Ball more than anyone - but its a risk they happily take to get something more, they want to get closer to batsmen, appear faster.. so u cant have complains - thr are many bowlers bowling within the crease, it all depends on perfecting ur practices..

Posted by philvic on (November 21, 2012, 7:05 GMT)

excellent article. The benefit of doubt should definitely go to bowler. Until Brisbane test I thought it did but obviously in Kettleboroughs mind you have to check 5 tiimes and if you are not 100% sure the foot is behind you call it. In my view the DRS should not be used for no-balls. If it is not obvious enough for on-field umpire it is not a no-ball. In fact the DRS needs a complete overhaul. In Brisbane we had despite DRs we had a batsman given out LBW who was not (Amla) and one who was given notout who was (Cowan). This might well have changed the balance of the match. I think the onfield umpire should decide when the DRS is used and it can then be used as often as it is needed - not this silly arbitrary 2 shots and you are out rule.

Posted by Avid.Cricket.Watcher on (November 21, 2012, 7:00 GMT)

Unintelligent article. Good writing skills, Mark, but an unintelligent suggestion. You're asking the bowler and umpire to treat the front line of the popping crease as sacrosanct, rather than the back line of the popping crease... but they still have to respect a line... you can't escape exactitude. And if bowlers can't respect the back line, how in the world will they (magically?) respect the front line?? And how will the umpires (magically?) be unaffected by parallax?? The best and simplest solution is proper practice in the nets and in FC cricket (which you yourself concede many bowlers don't pay attention to).

Posted by   on (November 21, 2012, 6:21 GMT)

I agree entirely with the article. The front foot law was introduced to stop bowlers releasing with their front foot literally feet over the crease, not millimetres. The bowler should own the line, while for stumpings and run outs should remain the same.

As to replay's, I cannot agree with the referral system on taking a wicket. We've had Test matches drawn, and won or lost by a single run. Whose to say the result would not have been different had a no-ball been correctly called? Why should the batting team suffer for not having legitimate no-balls called and thereby adding to the score and getting an extra delivery?

The no-ball referral system should either be for every single delivery (impractical) or not at all.

Posted by Meety on (November 21, 2012, 6:14 GMT)

Good arguement @Mark. I am a bit reluctant to "give them the line", rather I would like to see an Umpire's call when it comes to a UDRS. If the bowler's foot touched the line & was not called a no-ball, on with the UDRS decision. If the bowler clearly overshot the line - then it is a retrospective no-ball. I can handle a wicket being turned down if a bowler on replay has seen to clearly overstep the line - BUT, I can't stomach an overrule when there has to be multiple replays to confirm. If we give the bowlers the line, it will just mean we'll be looking at the front of the line instead of the back of the line - which is really the same thing (IMO). == == == The bit McGrath said about peripheral vision, is IMO, fine & true for some, but does vary from person to person - meaning some player's vision may not be good peripherally!

Posted by Saif_I_Khan on (November 21, 2012, 6:12 GMT)

@Cricinfo: Need a 'like'/agree button to second some opinion. Think about it. Would be great to have that...

Posted by Rahulbose on (November 21, 2012, 6:03 GMT)

The quote about failing to prepare is from Benjamin Franklin.

Posted by   on (November 21, 2012, 5:59 GMT)

The thing i find most problematic about the no-ball law is the unfair demands it places on the umpire. Currently, umpires are expected to call whether a bowler lands their foot legally in a split second and then immediately judge the play at the other end. In my opinion, the job of determining whether a no-ball has been committed or not should fall to the 4th umpire. This will bring about consistent no-ball decisions to be made whilst also freeing the on-field umpire allowing them to focus their efforts to the business end. Mark, I see where you are coming from in your proposed law change. However, i don't believe it would bring about a reduced number of no balls rather it would just move the problem a few centimetres forward.

Posted by PLAC on (November 21, 2012, 5:56 GMT)

I agree with these comments. The use of the third umpire and technology should have enhanced the game and improved accuracy of contentious decisions. However, this has led to an over-kill of the quest for perfection. Some of the no-ball incedents during the AUS v SAF test were ridiculous in that they were so close that surely no advantage to the bowler (or disadvantage to the batsman) could have been realistically proven. Yes, rules are rules but we should be able to review the laws and allow for changes in favour of all parties (including the umpires), if not common sense, to prevail.

Posted by anchovy on (November 21, 2012, 5:55 GMT)

I agree that the thrill of the wicket is lost when the players stand around waiting for replays. Furthermore, spectators will learn to temper their reaction to a dismissal, as they will know that the umpire may recall the batsman. I think the best solution is for umpires to never use replays for no-ball decisions. In short, it doesn't matter if the bowler oversteps by a few centimetres. We should keep in mind that there are some rules in all sports that do not need to be policed as closely as others. In rugby, for example, we look very closely at whether a winger stepped on the sideline before scoring, but we give far more leeway on the passes leading up to the try. If we want a quicker and more exciting game, some decisions should be left solely to the on-field officials.

Posted by SridharKalyan on (November 21, 2012, 5:36 GMT)

Mark - the front-foot rule is absurd to say the least especially given the antics that the batsmen are permitted. The best guys like you can do is to generate dialogue on bringing in a rule that no runs will accrue if the batsman was outside of his batting crease at the time of contact with the ball - just as no wickets will accrue to the bowler. If the bowler was being penalized for reducing the 22-yard length, so should the batsman be.

Posted by   on (November 21, 2012, 5:35 GMT)

If you are "giving the bowler the line" you would effectively have to do one of 2 thing - the first possibility would be to paint the line with its front edge on the popping crease line (rather than its back edge). This would not in fact change the amount of space the bowler had to work with (although maybe it would be easier for the bowler and umpire to see). You would also then need to change the run out and stumping rules.

The second possibility would be to do as you suggest and leave the line where it is (ie, its back edge on the popping crease line), also leaving the run out and stumping rules as they are. You would then need to strictly limit the width of the line

Posted by darren1301 on (November 21, 2012, 5:09 GMT)

All you are doing then is shifting the line. There has to be a point where they can't go beyond.

Surely it is not that hard to mark your run up so that you land well behind the line. I recall that Terry Alderman didn't have no-ball issues...

I'd rather the players learned to play under the no-ball rules we have rather than implement another change that gives the bowlers more advantage.

Remember that a batsman makes one mistake and he is out a bowler can bowl a bad ball, be smacked for a bonudary, come back with the next ball and get a wicket...The batsman doesn't get the same leeway the other way around!

Next you'll be saying that it's OK to throw the ball if you can't straighten your arm...oh wait a minute!

Posted by   on (November 21, 2012, 4:54 GMT)

Why don't we change all the laws of the game, coz they might all be too exact Mr. Nicholas? Like if bowled, a batsman can be called not-out, if he does the Gagnam style dance perfectly right before he leaves the field, or how about letting people bowl from a sideways direction, or how about doing something that would truly frustrate the Western cricketing world, let bowlers release at a greater angle so that chucking is allowed? Madness.

Posted by shwet14 on (November 21, 2012, 4:50 GMT)

Good article Mark. It is a moot point indeed as to why bowlers can't prevent themselves from bowling a No-ball. Also some of them tend to do it more than others- Dilhara Fernando comes to mind, so also Kemar Roach. I've never understood though as to why the bowlers have to aim for the crease? Why can't they draw an imaginary line 4 inches behind the actual crease and aim for that to land while delivering? I'm sure, that would not matter as far as the ball velocity is concerned .. Mark's suggestion of giving the line to the bowlers seems to be a good idea. Better still, go back to the backfoot no- ball rule, and give the batsman not out if the bowlers drag beyond the front foot crease (as done today) This will give umpire the extra second to call a no- ball and the batsman to react quickly enough to treat the ball as a free hit. So you are preventing the draggers to take undue advantage..

Posted by   on (November 21, 2012, 4:44 GMT)

agree. it looks a harsh rule.

Posted by aus_trad on (November 21, 2012, 4:22 GMT)

I agree that it's a big ask for someone to run twenty-odd paces at fairly high speed (under conditions - wind, slope, etc - which vary from day to day, and ground to ground), and then at the end of it to land their front foot so that a small part of it is behind the popping crease...but in a way that is just the point: fast bowlers are constantly trying to do something very difficult because (and only because) they are always pushing the limits - trying to get as close to the batsman as humanly possible before releasing the missile. If all bowlers aimed to have their whole front foot - even the toes - land behind the line, no-balls (as a serious issue, anyway - necessitating articles (and responses) like this one), would virtually disappear. When all's said and done, I'm afraid they only have themselves to blame.

Posted by ygkd on (November 21, 2012, 4:21 GMT)

Sure, give the bowlers the line. Sack the switch hit too. But don't feel sorry for those who routinely bowl twelve-inch no-balls in practice, unless forced to do so by poor facilities (and that's not what this article is about anyway).

Posted by ramakanthjosyula on (November 21, 2012, 4:16 GMT)

I think the suggestion to make the link belong to the bowler makes a lot of sense. Especially considering batsmen are allowed to stand even two yards outside the crease. If the point of the bowlers not overstepping is to have a standard pitching length and not let them take advantange, then the same should be applied to the batsmen as well who take advantage by coming out to counter the swing

Posted by yogi.s on (November 21, 2012, 4:08 GMT)

I dont quite agree with the view that the no ball rule needs to be changed. The line is clear and even the bowlers know what is expected so if they keep bowling in the nets without a measured run up they cant expect to not bowl no balls. I think the argument put forward in favor of changing the rule that bowlers hate it more than others but somehow it is difficult to step inside is rudimentary to say the least. Also, the answer to curbing switch hit is not to allow bowlers some indiscipline as overstepping does not improve chance of a wicket.

Posted by kensohatter on (November 21, 2012, 4:01 GMT)

Nice article. Batsman do receive the advantage far too often and the balance must be restored somehow.Amazing that Holding and Botham only bowled a handful of no balls in their career! In my opinion no balls should not go to the 3rd umpire at all. If its called in the middle then fine the call stands but if a wicket is taken and a no ball was not called well good luck to the bowler he got away with it in much the same way batsmen often get away with a small nick or an unseen bat pad.

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Mark NicholasClose
Mark Nicholas A prolific and stylish middle-order batsman for Hampshire, Mark Nicholas was unlucky never to have played for England, but after captaining his county to four major trophies he made his reputation as a presenter, commentator and columnist. Named the UK Sports Presenter of the Year in 2001 and 2005 by the Royal Television Society, he has commentated all over the world, from the World Cup in the West Indies to the Indian Premier League. He now hosts the cricket coverage for Channel Nine in Australia and Channel 5 in England.

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