The laws of cricket are a set of rules established
by the Marylebone Cricket Club which describe the laws of cricket worldwide, to ensure uniformity
and fairness. There are currently 42 laws, which outline all aspects of how the game
is played from how a team wins a game, how a batsman is dismissed, through to specifications
on how the pitch is to be prepared and maintained. The MCC is a private club based in London
in England and is no longer the game’s official governing body; however the MCC retains the
copyright in the laws of the game and only the MCC may change the laws, although nowadays
this would usually only be done after discussions with the game’s global governing body the
International Cricket Council. Cricket is one of the few sports for which the governing
principles are referred to as ‘Laws’ rather than as ‘Rules’ or ‘Regulations’. However
regulations to supplement and/or vary the laws may be agreed for particular competitions.
Those applying for international matches can be found on the ICC’s website. History
The origins of cricket are debatable, but it probably derived from numerous games and
sports involving hitting a ball with a bat or club. In the eighteenth century, it expanded
to become a betting game especially popular with the British aristocracy. The earliest
laws were drawn up in that context, to help regulate a game on which large sums of money
were being staked. The earliest existing known Code of cricket was drawn up by certain “Noblemen
and Gentlemen” who used the Artillery Ground in London in 1744. In 1755 there is further
reference to the laws being revised by “Several Cricket Clubs, particularly the Star and Garter
in Pall Mall”, followed by a revision of the Laws by “a committee of Noblemen and Gentlemen
of Kent, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex, Middlesex and London at the Star and Garter” in 1774.
A printed form of the laws was published in 1775 and a further revision to the laws was
undertaken by a similar body of Noblemen and Gentlemen of Kent, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex,
Middlesex and London in 1786. However, these laws were not universally followed,
with different games played under different guidance. On 30 May 1788, the Marylebone Cricket
Club, which had been formed by the leading noblemen and gentlemen playing the game just
one year before, produced its first Code of Laws. Whilst the MCC’s version of the Laws
were not accepted fully immediately, or applied consistently, it is the successor of these
Laws that governs the game today. The next major change in 1809 saw further standardisation
of the weight of the ball from between 5 and 6 ounces to between 5.5 and 5.75 ounces, and
the width of the cricket bat was standardised for the first time. The law to score runs
of a ball hitting the non-striker stumps was made redundant and the length of stumps was
increased from 22 to 24 inches and bails from 6 to 7 inches to help the bowlers, and
the importance of umpires was further enhanced. Finally, a new method of dismissing a batsman
was introduced. Previously, as cricket uses a hard ball and leg-pads were not used, players
would naturally play with their legs away from the wicket. As batsmen started to wear
pads, they became willing to cover their stumps with their legs to prevent the ball hitting
the stumps and bowling them. Therefore a “leg before wicket” rule was introduced so that
a batsman preventing the ball hitting his stumps with his legs would be out.
In 1829 the Length of stumps increased from 24 to 27 inches and the length of the bails
was increased from 7 to 8 inches, again to help the bowlers. For the first time, the
thickness of stumps was mentioned. A new Code of Laws was approved by the MCC Committee
on 19 May 1835, and another on 21 April 1884. In the 1884 laws the number of players was
formalised for the first time, and the size of the ball was formalised for the first time
too. The follow-on rule was introduced. This was in response to the problem that to win
a game a side needed to dismiss their opposition twice. A side that batted first and was fully
on top of a match and scoring lots of runs would have to wait until it was dismissed
a second time before it could attempt to dismiss the opposition a second time. As cricket is
a time-limited game, it meant that sides that dominated the opposition could be forced to
draw rather than win games. The initial follow-on rule was faulty, though, as it required a
side to follow-on when it was behind. A side could deliberately concede its last wickets
in the first innings in return for being able to bowl last on a deteriorating pitch. Later
the follow-on rule was changed so that a team sufficiently ahead of its opposition has the
option on whether to enforce it or not. In 1947 a new Code was approved by the MCC
on 7 May. In 1979 after a number of minor revisions of the 1947 Code, a new Code was
approved at an MCC Special General Meeting on 21 November. This is known as the 1980
code. Amongst other changes, imperial units are now followed by metric units in the specifications.
In 1992 a second edition of the 1980 Code was produced. In 2000 a new Code, which for
the first time included a Preamble defining the Spirit of Cricket was approved on 3 May.
The code was rewritten into plain English and is more discursive than previous Codes.
The length of an over was officially standardised at six balls for all matches, although in
practice this had been the case for 20 or so years before that. In 2003 a second version
of the 2000 Code was produced incorporating necessary amendments arising from the application
of the 2000 Code. Throwing was first regulated in laws produced
in 1829. In 1864 overarm bowling was permitted for the first time.
In 1889, the length of an over increased from four balls to five balls. In 1900, the length
of an over was increased to six balls. In 1922, variation was allowed in the length
of the over. The 1947 Code stipulated that the length of an over was to be six or eight
balls according to “prior agreement” between the captains.
Today’s laws The Marylebone Cricket Club is the framer
of the Laws of Cricket, the rules governing play of the game. The Laws are intended to
apply to all two innings matches; the International Cricket Council has implemented “Standard
Playing Conditions for Test Matches” and “Standard Playing Conditions for One Day Internationals”
to augment the Laws of Cricket. Similarly, each cricketing country has implemented Playing
Conditions to govern domestic cricket. The Laws provide for One-day, or Limited overs
cricket by stipulating that the number of innings per side may be one or two, and that
each innings may be restricted to a maximum number of overs, or a maximum period of time.
The Laws retain the Imperial units as they were originally specified, but now also include
metric conversions. The Laws are organised into a Preface, a Preamble,
forty-two Laws, and four appendices. The Preface relates to the Marylebone Cricket Club and
the history of the Laws. The Preamble is a new addition and is related to “the Spirit
of the Game;” it was introduced to discourage the increasing practices of ungentlemanly
conduct. Eight amendments were made to the laws which
dealt with bad light, the toss, spirit of cricket, practice sessions, fielding athleticism
and rare dismissals on 30 September 2010 w.e.f 1 October 2010. These amendments can be read
here The Laws themselves deal with the following:
Players and officials The first four laws cover the players, the
umpires and the scorers. Law 1: The players. A cricket team consists
of eleven players, including a captain. Outside of official competitions, teams can agree
to play more than eleven-a-side, though no more than eleven players may field.
Law 2: Substitutes. In cricket, a substitute may be brought on for an injured fielder.
However, a substitute may not bat, bowl, keep wicket or act as captain. The original player
may return if he has recovered. A batsman who becomes unable to run may have a runner,
who completes the runs while the batsman continues batting. Alternatively, a batsman may retire
hurt or ill, and may return later to resume his innings if he recovers.
Law 3: The umpires. There are two umpires, who apply the Laws, make all necessary decisions,
and relay the decisions to the scorers. While not required under the laws of cricket, in
higher level cricket a third umpire may be used under the specific playing conditions
of a particular match or tournament. Law 4: The scorers. There are two scorers
who respond to the umpires’ signals and keep the score.
Equipment and laying out the pitch After dealing with the players, the laws move
on to discuss equipment and pitch specifications, except for specifications about the wicket-keeper’s
gloves, which are dealt with in Law 40. These laws are supplemented by Appendices A and
B. Law 5: The ball. A cricket ball is between
8 13/16 and 9 inches in circumference, and weighs between 5.5 and 5.75 ounces. Only one
ball is used at a time, unless it is lost, when it is replaced with a ball of similar
wear. It is also replaced at the start of each innings, and may, at the request of the
fielding side, be replaced with a new ball, after a certain number of overs have been
bowled. The gradual degradation of the ball through the innings is an important aspect
of the game. Law 6: The bat. The bat is no more than 38
inches in length, and no more than 4.25 inches wide. The hand or glove holding the bat is
considered part of the bat. Ever since the Heavy Metal incident, a highly publicised
marketing attempt by Dennis Lillee, who brought out an aluminium bat during an international
game, the laws have provided that the blade of the bat must be made of wood.
Law 7: The pitch. The pitch is a rectangular area of the ground 22 yards long and 10 ft
wide. The Ground Authority selects and prepares the pitch, but once the game has started,
the umpires control what happens to the pitch. The umpires are also the arbiters of whether
the pitch is fit for play, and if they deem it unfit, with the consent of both captains
can change the pitch. Professional cricket is almost always played on a grass surface.
However, in the event a non-turf pitch is used, the artificial surface must have a minimum
length of 58 ft and a minimum width of 6 ft. Law 8: The wickets. The wicket consists of
three wooden stumps that are 28 inches tall. The stumps are placed along the batting crease
with equal distances between each stump. They are positioned so they are 9 inches wide.
Two wooden bails are placed on top of the stumps. The bails must not project more than
0.5 inches above the stumps, and must, for men’s cricket, be 4 5⁄16 inches long. There
are also specified lengths for the barrel and spigots of the bail. There are different
specifications for the wickets and bails for junior cricket. The umpires may dispense with
the bails if conditions are unfit. Further details on the specifications of the wickets
are contained in Appendix A to the laws. Law 9: Bowling, popping, and return creases.
This law sets out the dimensions and locations of the creases. The bowling crease, which
is the line the stumps are in the middle of, is drawn at each end of the pitch so that
the three stumps in the set of stumps at that end of the pitch fall on it. Each bowling
crease should be 8 feet 8 inches in length, centred on the middle stump at each end, and
each bowling crease terminates at one of the return creases. The popping crease, which
determines whether a batsman is in his ground or not, and which is used in determining front-foot
no balls, is drawn at each end of the pitch in front of each of the two sets of stumps.
The popping crease must be 4 feet in front of and parallel to the bowling crease. Although
it is considered to have unlimited length, the popping crease must be marked to at least
6 feet on either side of the imaginary line joining the centres of the middle stumps.
The return creases, which are the lines a bowler must be within when making a delivery,
are drawn on each side of each set of the stumps, along each sides of the pitch. The
return creases lie perpendicular to the popping crease and the bowling crease, 4 feet 4 inches
either side of and parallel to the imaginary line joining the centres of the two middle
stumps. Each return crease terminates at one end at the popping crease but the other end
is considered to be unlimited in length and must be marked to a minimum of 8 feet from
the popping crease. Law 10: Preparation and maintenance of the
playing area. When a cricket ball is bowled it almost always bounces on the pitch, and
the behaviour of the ball is greatly influenced by the condition of the pitch. As a consequence,
detailed rules on the management of the pitch are necessary. This law contains the rules
governing how pitches should be prepared, mown, rolled, and maintained.
Law 11: Covering the pitch. The pitch is said to be ‘covered’ when the groundsmen have placed
covers on it to protect it against rain or dew. The laws stipulate that the regulations
on covering the pitch shall be agreed by both captains in advance. The decision concerning
whether to cover the pitch greatly affects how the ball will react to the pitch surface,
as a ball bounces differently on wet ground as compared to dry ground. The area beyond
the pitch where a bowler runs so as to deliver the ball should ideally be kept dry so as
to avoid injury through slipping and falling, and the Laws also require these to be covered
wherever possible when there is wet weather. Structure of the game
Laws 12 to 17 outline the structure of the game.
Law 12: Innings. Before the game, the teams agree whether it is to be over one or two
innings, and whether either or both innings are to be limited by time or by overs. In
practice, these decisions are likely to be laid down by Competition Regulations, rather
than pre-game agreement. In two-innings games, the sides bat alternately unless the follow-on
is enforced. An innings is closed once all batsmen are dismissed, no further batsmen
are fit to play, the innings is declared or forfeited by the batting captain, or any agreed
time or over limit is reached. The captain winning the toss of a coin decides whether
to bat or to bowl first. Law 13: The follow-on. In a two innings match,
if the side batting second scores substantially fewer runs than the side batting first, the
side that batted first can force their opponents to bat again immediately. The side that enforced
the follow-on risks not getting to bat again and thus the chance of winning. For a game
of five or more days, the side batting first must be at least 200 runs ahead to enforce
the follow-on; for a three- or four-day game, 150 runs; for a two-day game, 100 runs; for
a one-day game, 75 runs. The length of the game is determined by the number of scheduled
days play left when the game actually begins. Law 14: Declaration and forfeiture. The batting
captain can declare an innings closed at any time when the ball is dead. He may also forfeit
his innings before it has started. Law 15: Intervals. There are intervals between
each day’s play, a ten-minute interval between innings, and lunch, tea and drinks intervals.
The timing and length of the intervals must be agreed before the match begins. There are
also provisions for moving the intervals and interval lengths in certain situations, most
notably the provision that if nine wickets are down, the tea interval is delayed to the
earlier of the fall of the next wicket and 30 minutes elapsing.
Law 16: Start of play; cessation of play. Play after an interval commences with the
umpire’s call of “Play”, and at the end of a session by “Time”. The last hour of a match
must contain at least 20 overs, being extended in time so as to include 20 overs if necessary.
Law 17: Practice on the field. There may be no batting or bowling practice on the pitch
except before the day’s play starts and after the day’s play has ended. Bowlers may only
have trial run-ups if the umpires are of the view that it would waste no time.
Scoring and winning The laws then move on to discuss how runs
can be scored and how one team can beat the other.
Law 18: Scoring runs. Runs are scored when the two batsmen run to each other’s end of
the pitch. Several runs can be scored from one ball.
Law 19: Boundaries. A boundary is marked round the edge of the field of play. If the ball
is hit into or past this boundary, four runs are scored, or six runs if the ball didn’t
hit the ground before crossing the boundary. Law 20: Lost ball. If a ball in play is lost
or cannot be recovered, the fielding side can call “lost ball”. The batting side keeps
any penalty runs and scores the higher of six runs and the number of runs actually run.
Law 21: The result. The side which scores the most runs wins the match. If both sides
score the same number of runs, the match is tied. However, the match may run out of time
before the innings have all been completed. In this case, the match is drawn.
Law 22: The over. An over consists of six balls bowled, excluding wides and no balls.
Consecutive overs are delivered from opposite ends of the pitch. A bowler may not bowl two
consecutive overs. Law 23: Dead ball. The ball comes into play
when the bowler begins his run up, and becomes dead when all the action from that ball is
over. Once the ball is dead, no runs can be scored and no batsmen can be dismissed. The
ball becomes dead for a number of reasons, most commonly when a batsman is dismissed,
when a boundary is hit, or when the ball has finally settled with the bowler or wicketkeeper.
Law 24: No ball. A ball can be a no ball for several reasons: if the bowler bowls from
the wrong place; or if he straightens his elbow during the delivery; or if the bowling
is dangerous; or if the ball bounces more than twice or rolls along the ground before
reaching the batsman; or if the fielders are standing in illegal places. A no ball adds
one run to the batting team’s score, in addition to any other runs which are scored off it,
and the batsman can’t be dismissed off a no ball except by being run out, or by handling
the ball, hitting the ball twice, or obstructing the field.
Law 25: Wide ball. An umpire calls a ball “wide” if, in his or her opinion, the batsman
did not have a reasonable opportunity to score off the ball. A ball is called wide when the
bowler bowls a bouncer that goes over the head of the batsman. A wide adds one run to
the batting team’s score, in addition to any other runs which are scored off it, and the
batsman can’t be dismissed off a wide except by being run out or stumped, or by handling
the ball, hitting his wicket, or obstructing the field.
Law 26: Bye and Leg bye. If a ball that is not a no ball or wide passes the striker and
runs are scored, they are called byes. If a ball that is not a no ball hits the striker
but not the bat and runs are scored, they are called leg-byes. However, leg-byes cannot
be scored if the striker is neither attempting a stroke nor trying to avoid being hit. Byes
and leg-byes are credited to the team’s but not the batsman’s total.
Mechanics of dismissal Laws 27 to 29 discuss the main mechanics of
how a batsman may be dismissed. Law 27: Appeals. If the fielders believe a
batsman is out, they may ask the umpire “How’s That?”, commonly shouted emphatically with
arms raised, before the next ball is bowled. The umpire then decides whether the batsman
is out. Strictly speaking, the fielding side must appeal for all dismissals, including
obvious ones such as bowled. However, a batsman who is obviously out will normally leave the
pitch without waiting for an appeal or a decision from the umpire.
Law 28: The wicket is down. Several methods of being out occur when the wicket is put
down. This means that the wicket is hit by the ball, or the batsman, or the hand in which
a fielder is holding the ball, and at least one bail is removed.
Law 29: Batsman out of his ground. The batsmen can be run out or stumped if they are out
of their ground. A batsman is in his ground if any part of him or his bat is on the ground
behind the popping crease. If both batsman are in the middle of the pitch when a wicket
is put down, the batsman closer to that end is out.
Ways to get out Laws 30 to 39 discuss the various ways a batsman
may be dismissed. In addition to these 10 methods, a batsman may retire out. That provision
is in Law 2. Of these, caught is generally the commonest, followed by bowled, leg before
wicket, run out and stumped. The other forms of dismissal are very rare.
Law 30: Bowled. A batsman is out if his wicket is put down by a ball delivered by the bowler.
It is irrelevant whether the ball has touched the bat, glove, or any part of the batsman
before going on to put down the wicket, though it may not touch another player or an umpire
before doing so. Law 31: Timed out. An incoming batsman must
be ready to face a ball within 3 minutes of the outgoing batsman being dismissed, otherwise
the incoming batsman will be out. Law 32: Caught. If a ball hits the bat or
the hand holding the bat and is then caught by the opposition within the field of play
before the ball bounces, then the batsman is out.
Law 33: Handled the ball. If a batsman wilfully handles the ball with a hand that is not touching
the bat without the consent of the opposition, he is out.
Law 34: Hit the ball twice. If a batsman hits the ball twice, other than for the sole purpose
of protecting his wicket or with the consent of the opposition, he is out.
Law 35: Hit wicket. If, after the bowler has entered his delivery stride and while the
ball is in play, a batsman puts his wicket down by his bat or his body he is out. The
striker is also out hit wicket if he puts his wicket down by his bat or his body in
setting off for a first run. “Body” includes the clothes and equipment of the batsman.
Law 36: Leg before wicket. If the ball hits the batsman without first hitting the bat,
but would have hit the wicket if the batsman was not there, and the ball does not pitch
on the leg side of the wicket, the batsman will be out. However, if the ball strikes
the batsman outside the line of the off-stump, and the batsman was attempting to play a stroke,
he is not out. Law 37: Obstructing the field. If a batsman
wilfully obstructs the opposition by word or action, he is out.
Law 38: Run out. A batsman is out if at any time while the ball is in play no part of
his bat or person is grounded behind the popping crease and his wicket is fairly put down by
the opposing side. Law 39: Stumped. A batsman is out when the
wicket-keeper puts down the wicket, while the batsman is out of his crease and not attempting
a run. Fielders
Law 40: The wicket-keeper. The keeper is a designated man from the bowling side allowed
to stand behind the stumps of the batsman. He is the only player from his side allowed
to wear gloves and external leg guards. Law 41: The fielder. A fielder is any of the
eleven cricketers from the bowling side. Fielders are positioned to field the ball, to stop
runs and boundaries, and to get batsmen out by catching or running them out.
Fair and unfair play Law 42: Fair and unfair play.
Appendices The five appendices to the laws, are as follows:
Appendix A: Specifications and diagrams of stumps and bails
Appendix B: Specifications and diagrams of the pitch and creases
Appendix C: Specifications and diagrams of gloves
Appendix D: Definitions Appendix E: The bat
See also Cricket
Glossary of cricket terms References Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack
The official laws of cricket 1774 Laws
1884, 1947, 1980 and 2000 Laws A Social History of English Cricket by Derek
Birley ISBN 1-85410-941-3 External links
Balls per over in first class cricket International Cricket Council rules and regulations
for international matches Laws of cricket animations narrated by Stephen