The Free Hit rules in cricket, introduced in 2007 and relevant only in ODI and T20 cricket, is a delivery which follows a No Ball bowled by the fielding side. As the name suggests, a free hit is provided as an advantage to the batter where he can only be dismissed under three conditions, all of which are applicable on a No Ball as well.
These three modes of dismissal are run-out, field obstruction or by hitting the ball twice. The batter eyes to maximize his chances for a boundary as the risk of getting out is reduced to a great extent. Similar to every other provision and rule of cricket, the regulations regarding a free hit are specified by the Laws of Cricket, a code dictating all rules of the sport.
The Laws of Cricket was first drafted in the year 1744 and since 1788, it has been owned and maintained by the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) in London. There are a total of 42 Laws stated in the document currently and the MCC has amended the Code a total of six times, the latest code being released in October, 2017.
MCC was formerly the governing body of cricket and even after being replaced from that position by the International Cricket Council (ICC), it still retains its copyright on the Laws of Cricket and remains the only body that may change the laws, although changes are usually brought in after consultations with other organizations such as the ICC and the Association of Cricket Umpires and Scorers.
The free hit finds its mention in clause 21.19.2 of the playing conditions which states, “For any free hit, the striker can be dismissed only under the circumstances that apply for a no ball”.
Earlier a free hit was awarded to the batting side only as a penalty for an overstepping front foot no ball or a back foot infringement no ball but in the year 2015, it was decided that the delivery following a waist high no ball and even a high bouncer no ball will be bowled as a free hit.
Official Free Hit Rules in Cricket by ICC
Let’s look at some official rules regarding a Free Hit :
Signaling and Inclusions
The ball following a no ball is supposed to be signaled as a free hit by the on-field umpire and it is done so by making a circular movement of a finger with only one arm raised in the air. A free hit is to be bowled after a no ball of any kind – front foot infringement, back foot infringement, waist high full toss, the bowler switching sides without notifying the umpire, the ball bouncing twice off the pitch, among others.
Mode of Dismissal
The batter can only be dismissed under three circumstances on a free hit, which stand unchanged for a no ball as well. The three situations being run out, field obstruction and hitting the ball twice. On top of this, a batter cannot even be stumped if the free hit delivery is a wide.
The fielding side is not allowed to change the field setting for a free hit delivery if the same batter is on strike, however, the wicketkeeper, if standing close to the stumps, is allowed to take a more traditional position for safety reasons. Field changes are permitted if the batter who was at the non-striker end when the no ball was bowled is facing the free hit delivery. Field changes are also allowed if the no ball was called by the umpires due to field infringements irrespective of the batter on strike.
Treatment of the ball in different situations
If the batter is bowled :
In this case, not only is the batter not out but the batting side can also run between the wickets to gather runs for the team. If the ball hits the bat before going on to the stumps, the score is directly added to the batsman’s tally and if it hits the pads before the stumps, the score is awarded to the batting side as Leg-Byes. In case the ball hits the stumps directly and a situation arises that the batters can steal a run or two, the score is added in the extras as byes.
This free hit scenario was happened recently in India vs Pakistan T20 Word Cup 2022 Match where India were given 3 byes after Virat Kohli was bowled off free hit.
If the batter is caught
The ball still remains in play and the two batters can run to add runs to their tally. As the ball came in contact with the bat upon being bowled, the score is added to the batter’s total.
If the ball is wide
In this case, the free hit delivery is supposed to be bowled again with all provisions of a free hit and an extra run for a wide is awarded to the batting side.
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