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What is a Free hit in cricket?

Free hit in cricket is amongst the best innovations in the sport. A free hit not only boosts the excitement and drama but can also change the complexion of the match. So what is free hit and how does it work? We explore all of it here.

When does the umpire signal a free hit?

A free hit is awarded to the batting side when the opposing team bowls a no-ball in limited-overs cricket. The umpire signals by circling his finger/hand in the air above his/her head.

When was free hit used for the first time?

The International Cricket Council (ICC) first introduced Free hit in 2007. It is only part of the limited overs cricket that is One-Day cricket and T20s.

Free hit rules

The free hit rules explained by ICC’s laws of cricket are as follows:

  • A free hit is signalled by the umpire after the fielding team bowls a No ball. The umpire is required to make a circular movement with one hand raised above the head.
  • No ball can be any of the type – front foot overstep, backfoot infringement, over the waist height or an extra fielder than outside the circle than permitted. Previously, only frontfoot and backfoot no balls were followed by a free hit. In 2015, the ICC changed the rule and made free hit applicable after all types of no balls.
  • If a free hit delivery is an illegal one i. e. another no ball or wide, the umpire has to signal free hit again. The process must go on until a legal delivery is bowled on the free hit.
  • The fielding team is not allowed to change field setting if the same batter is on strike for the free hit. But if the striker has changed that is – the batter was run-out or odd number of runs were taken on a no ball, then the opposition can set a different field.
  • Field can also be changed if the no ball was called duet to an extra fielder outside the circle, irrespective of the batter on strike.
  • For safety reasons, if the wicketkeeper was standing up, he or she can move back against fast bowlers irrespective of the striker.

Fielding restrictions during free hit

When a free hit’s awarded, the fielding team can not change the field placement if the same batter is on strike. But if the batting side has taken a run on the no ball, the fielding side can change the field for the other batter on strike.

Advantages for batsmen in a free hit

As you would have known by known, the biggest advantage for batters on a free hit, is they can not be dismissed by a catch, leg before wicket or by a bowled. With three most common modes of dismissals out of the picture, batters can aim for big hit without risking their wicket.

If the same batter is on strike, the fielding team has to keep the same field setting as the previous delivery, which is another big advantage.

Virat Kohli free hit controversy against Pakistan

India and Pakistan engaged in one of the most thrilling matches in the history of T20 World Cup when they met at the MCG recently. India ended up on the winning side on the final ball of the match but it was not without a controversy.

Virat Kohli played an incredible knock to bring down the equation to 16 off the last six balls. On the fourth ball of the over, Pakistan’s left-arm orthodox spinner Mohammad Nawaz bowled a waist-high full toss, which Kohli just about managed to clear the ropes for a six. The square leg umpire Marais Erasmus indicated the delivery was over waist height and the standing umpire Rod Tucker signalled it as the no ball for height.

The Pakistan players argued against the no ball call but as there was no dismissal on that delivery, there is no provision in the rulebook for on-field umpires to send it upstairs to the third umpire to recheck.

As per Clause 41.7.1 of the Laws of Cricket, “Any delivery, which passes or would have passed, without pitching, above waist height of the striker standing upright at the popping crease, is to be deemed to be unfair.”

However, the interpretation of whether the ball was above the waist height or not depends solely on the umpire and is largely subjective. A grey area of sorts. The drama didn’t stop there. On the next ball, Nawaz bowled a wide under pressure and the free-hit ball continued.

On the subsequent free hit, Kohli was cleaned up by a yorker but the ball ricocheted off the stumps through the fine leg region. Wicketkeeper Rizwan called for a dead ball while the Indian batters ran three. The confusion increased on the field as Rizwan and captain Babar Azam pleaded to the umpire. The two on-field umpires discussed and signalled byes.

According to Clause 21.19.2 of the playing conditions, “For any free hit, the striker can be dismissed only under the circumstances that apply for a no ball.”

As mentioned above, the rule clearly states that the batter can only be dismissed via a run-out, obstructing the field or by hitting the ball twice. And a dead ball can only be called for certain reasons such as a wicket, a boundary, once it settles in the gloves of the keeper or is returned to the bowler. But as the ball ricocheted off the stumps on a no ball, it was still in play and the runs were counted.

The equation came down to 2 off 2 amidst all the chaos Dinesh Karthik was then stumped on the next ball before Ravichandran Ashwin kept his cool to clinch the win.

Is there free hit in Test cricket?

No, the free hit rule does not apply in Test cricket. There have been voices from some experts to include free hit in the longer format to add more excitement in the game but the ICC has refrained from it. Most recently, the former South African fast bowler Dale Steyn called for the free hit inclusion in Test cricket so that tailenders would find facing fast bowlers a bit less hard.

“Free hit for No Ball in Test Cricket What you think? Will definitely help the bowlers (when batting) survive those extended 7/8 and sometimes 9 ball overs we’ve seen happen before. 6 balls are Hard enough for the tail-enders facing a top-class life-threatening fast bowler,” said Steyn.

What happens when you are bowled in free hit?

The batter can not be given out when he or she is bowled on the free hit. Moreover, the ball stays in play until it is gathered safely by a wicketkeeper or the bowler.

Can you run when bowled on free hit?

As the balls remains in play even when the batter is bowled on a free hit, they can run. However, run-out is one of the modes of dismissal that can be applied on a free hit.

FAQs

Is stumping out on free hit ball allowed?

Stumping is not an applicable mode of dismissal on a free hit. Only three types of dismissals are allowed on free hit – a run-out, field obstruction and hitting the ball twice.

When was free hit introduced in cricket?

Free hit was introduced in cricket in October 2007 by the ICC. Free hit has been part of ODI and T20I cricket but not Tests.

What is free hit bowled rule in cricket?

A batter can not be dismissed even if he or she is bowled as only the dismissals applied for a no ball, are applicable on a free hit as well.

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