Understanding 'No Ball' in Cricket

Cricket ball hitting cricket stumps, close up
No ball in cricket. Zero Creatives / Getty Images

A no ball in cricket is an illegal delivery incurring a one-run or two-run penalty to the fielding team.

Types of No Balls:

  • Front foot no ball. In the act of bowling the ball, the bowler fails to land any part of their front foot behind the popping crease. (You can see examples of this, and several other types of no ball, in this short video by Lord's Cricket Ground.) 
  • Back foot no ball. In delivering the ball, the bowler touches the return crease with their back foot.
  • High full toss no ball. The bowler's delivery reaches the batter above waist height without bouncing.
  • Above head height no ball. The ball bounces high off the pitch and passes the batter above head height. In some jurisdictions, this is ruled to be a wide, while in others -- such as Test match cricket -- bowlers are allowed two per over before a no ball is called.
  • Throwing no ball. The bowler throws the ball -- that is, they bowl with the elbow at an angle greater than 15°.
  • Breaking the stumps no ball. The bowler is of course allowed to break the stumps at the batter's end with the ball -- 'bowled' is one of the most common ways of getting out in cricket. But if they break the stumps at the non-striker's end in their delivery stride, it's a no ball. (England's Steven Finn had a problem with this for some time, back when breaking the stumps resulted in a dead ball.)
  • Change of action no ball. The bowler delivers the ball with the opposite arm or from a different side of the stumps without first notifying the umpire.
  • Underarm no ball. The bowler bowls underarm rather than overarm. (If you haven't heard of the infamous underarm incident involving an Australia vs New Zealand match in the 1980s, watch this video at once.)
  • Double bounce no ball. The ball bounces more than once before reaching the batter.
  • Fielding restrictions no ball. The fielding team has placed its fielders in breach of the restrictions agreed upon in advance of the match. The most common example is for having too many fielders outside the inner circle of the cricket field.


    • As you may have noticed, each type of no ball would provide -- if left unpunished -- either an advantage to the fielding team (such as a shorter distance to bowl) or dangerous conditions for batting (such as a waist-high full toss). The no ball penalty makes the game fairer and safer.
    • Fielding teams are usually penalized one run for a no ball, which is added to the innings total of the batting team under Extras. In some jurisdictions, the penalty for a no ball is two runs.​
    • Runs may still be scored by the batter off a no ball. For example, a no ball that is hit for four adds five runs to the batting team's total: four for the batter, one for Extras.​
    • As an illegitimate delivery, every no ball has to be bowled again, regardless of whether runs were scored off it.​
    • Of the other ten ways of getting out in cricket, only four are possible off a no ball. They are run out, handled the ball, hit the ball twice, and obstructing the field.​
    • In one-day and Twenty20 matches, the ball after a no ball is usually a free hit.​
    • The on-field umpires are the sole judges of whether a particular delivery was a no ball. In high-level matches, they can ask the third umpire to check video replays to help determine whether or not the delivery was a no ball, but the decision is ultimately theirs. The umpire signals a no ball by extending one arm out from the body in line with the waist.​
    • As a result, umpires sometimes get it wrong, such as with Andrew Flintoff's dismissal of Simon Katich. Television replays clearly showed that Flintoff's front foot was over the popping crease, but the umpire had already made his decision and given Katich out.