Fundamentals of Cricket – Umpiring

The game is adjudicated by two umpires, who make all decisions on the field and whose word is absolutely final. One umpire stands behind the non-striker’s wicket, ready to make judgments on leg before wicket (LBWs) and other events requiring a decision. The other umpire stands in line with the striker’s popping crease, about 20 meters (20 yards) to one side (usually the leg side, but not always), ready to judge stumpings and run-outs at his end. The umpires remain at their respective ends of the pitch, thus swapping roles every over.

If the technology is available for a given match, a third umpire is sometimes used. He sits off the field, with a television replay monitor. If an on-field umpire is unsure of a decision concerning either a run out or a stumping attempt, he may signal for the third umpire to view a television replay.

The third umpire views a replay, in slow motion if necessary, until he either reaches a decision or decides that he cannot make a clear decision. He signals the result to the on-field umpire, who must then abide by it. If the equipment fails, the replay umpire signals no decision. The replay umpire cannot be used for any decisions other than run outs and stumpings.

Whenever any decision is in doubt, the umpire must rule in favor of the batsman.

If the ball hits an umpire, it is still live and play continues. If it lodges in an umpire’s clothing, then it is dead.

The game is also presided over by a match referee, who watches from outside the field. The referee makes no decisions of relevance to the outcome of the game, but determines penalties for breaches of various rules and misconduct. In professional games, these penalties are monetary fines.

Arguing with an umpire’s decision is simply not tolerated. Anything more than a polite question to the umpires is heavily frowned upon and could attract a penalty from the referee. The most serious misconduct in a cricket match is of the order of a rude gesture to an opponent or throwing the ball into the ground in disgust. Such gross misbehavior would attract large fines and possibly match suspensions. Penalties for physical violence can only be guessed at, but would possibly be a career suspension.

 Umpire Signals

The umpires signal various events with gestures, as follows:

  1. Out

When a batsman is out, the umpire making the decision raises one hand above his head, with the index finger extended.

  1. Not Out

There is no formal signal to indicate that a batsman is not out. The umpire can either shake his head ‘no’ or not signal at all.

  1. Four

A four scored by the ball reaching the boundary is signaled by an arm extended horizontally and waved briefly back and forth in a horizontal arc.

  1. Six

A six is signaled by raising both arms straight over the head.

  1. No Ball

A no ball is signaled by holding an arm out horizontally.

No Ball
No Ball
  1. Wide

A wide is signaled by holding both arms out horizontally.

  1. Byes

Runs scored as byes are signaled by raising one arm over the head, palm open.

  1. Leg Byes

Leg byes are signaled by raising one leg and tapping the knee with one hand.

  1. Dead Ball

If the umpire has to signal dead ball to prevent the players from assuming that the ball is still alive, he waves both arms across each other in front of his abdomen.

  1. One Short

One short is signaled by touching the tip of one hand to the same shoulder.

  1. TV Replay

If an umpire wishes the third umpire to make a decision based on a TV replay, he signals by drawing a large square shape in the air with both hands, spreading them out high in the air in front of him, bringing them down, and then together again.



Extras are runs scored by means other than when the ball is hit by a batsman. Extras are not credited to any batsman, and are recorded by the scorer separately. The total number of runs for the innings is equal to the sums of the individual batsmen’s scores and the extras. There are four types of extras: no balls, wides, byes, and leg byes.

The bowler must bowl each ball with part of his front most foot behind the popping crease. If he oversteps this mark, he has bowled a no ball. The umpire at that end calls “no ball” immediately in a loud voice. The batsman may play and score runs as usual, and may not be out by any means except run out, handle the ball, hit the ball twice, or obstructing the field. Further, if the batsman does not score any runs from the ball, one run is added to the batting team’s score. Also, the bowler must bowl an extra ball in his over to compensate. A no ball is also called if any part of the bowler’s back foot is not within the area between the return creases.

If the bowler bowls the ball far to one side or over the head of the batsman, so making it impossible to score, the umpire will signal the ball as a wide. This gives the batting team one run and the bowler must re-bowl the ball. The striker may not be out hit wicket off a wide ball.

If the striker misses a ball and the wicket-keeper fails to gather it cleanly, the batsmen may take runs. These runs are called byes and are scored as extras.

If the striker, in attempting to play a shot, deflects the ball with part of his body, the batsmen may attempt to take a run. Such runs are called leg byes. If the striker did not attempt to play a shot with his bat, leg byes may not be taken. The umpire adjudicates by signaling a dead ball if the batsmen attempt to run when, in his opinion, no attempt was made to play a shot.

Batsmen may be run out as usual while running byes and leg-byes. If, while running either form of bye, the ball reaches the boundary, four byes (of the appropriate type) are scored.


Adverse Weather Conditions

Play is suspended at the umpires’ discretion for rain. Light rain is usually tolerated, though nothing heavier, because of the possibility of damage to the pitch. If the players are off the field, they must remain off until the rain has stopped completely. During rain the pitch is covered with waterproof material to protect it. Often the bowlers’ run-ups and an area around the pitch are also covered.

During very windy conditions, sometimes the bails will tend to blow off the top of the stumps. If this becomes a problem, the umpires can decide to play without bails. In this case, the wicket does not need to be broken by uprooting a stump, and the umpires must take full responsibility for deciding, in a reasonable manner, whether the wicket is broken or not.

Stay tuned for the final piece on the fundamentals of Cricket (different forms of Cricket) coming up next!


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