Monday, March 1, 2021

Delivery - .. .. no balls in new era !!

Chennaites waited for another 5 for from Ashwin which would have given him another unique record of a 10 for and a century – that was not to be – however the win was certain – swift and easy as India levelled the Series. At Chepauk, India cruised to victory in a little over a session on the fourth day, Axar Patel collecting a five-wicket haul on debut.  Some of the previous English players and some Australians went bitter on the pitch calling it a dustbowl / sandpit but could never explain how Ravi Ashwin was at ease scoring that century !!  .. England went down by a crushing margin of 317 runs - emphatic retribution.

 


This post is slightly different – on ‘delivery’.  The first innings of the India-England Test at the Chepauk Stadium saw the touring side put up a massive 578-run total backed by skipper Joe Root’s incredible 218, Dom Sibley’s 87 and Ben Stokes’ 82.  Indian bowlers struggled as they  ended up giving away 21 extra runs on no-balls and wide deliveries during the first two and a half days of cricket. One of the leading culprits of the bowling department was the 31-year old spinner Shahbaz Nadeem who ended up over-stepping for almost half of the team’s entire total no-balls, which is extremely unusual for a slow orthodox spinner. 

‘Delivery’ would mean different things in different contexts… it has great relevance and meaning in Insurance contexts as well.  Childbirth, the culmination of pregnancy is one form of delivery. In the popular sport of Cricket, delivery is a ball –  the act of  bowling.  An over constitutes 6 deliveries. [there were 8 ball overs earlier and even recently in the finals of Hongkong Sixes tournament].

Whenever we buy goods, we ask for ‘home delivery’ – another form of delivery.  Pizza is the immediate example that strikes one’s mind.  Dial a Pizza and gets delivered in say 30 minutes in most cities.. there are some Companies which advertise that if there is delay of more than the specified period, they deliver you the pizza free !!  Delivery of goods would culminate in handing over and making it available at the place destined and would include transportation of goods  - there is so much of Marine Insurance in that – sale contract, transportation, mode of transportation, carriers, carriage acts, movement by road / rail, sea or air – contract of affreightment, multi-modal, ports, duties and more, if goods are to move from one country to another.

A cricket ball is not a perfect sphere. The seam of the ball is the circular stitching which joins the two halves of the cricket ball. Hence, the seam joining the pieces of leather is circumferential and the stitching is noticeably raised. If the ball is bowled in such a way that the seam hits the pitch when it bounces, this irregularity can cause the ball to deviate sideways in its path. It may move in any direction, or just go straight.  The bowling is ‘delivery’ of Cricket ball by the bowler hurling at the batsman.

A no-ball is a delivery which does not count as one of the bowler's six legitimate balls in one over.  In Dec 2019, the first Twenty20 International between India and West Indies in Hyderabad   witnessed another push of technological advancement in the game. The auto no-ball, officially introduced for the first time in India, became part of playing conditions for the ongoing series. India won the high scoring game by 6 wickets  as Virat Kohli’s smashed 94 (not out).    Kesrick William’s foot became part of a history as he overstepped and was called   by the Auto no-ball system.  I had earlier posted in detail about the intentional over stepping by Suraj Randiv with the soul purpose of denying a ton to Virender Sehwag. 

The laws of Cricket defines : 21.1 Mode of delivery

21.1.1 The umpire shall ascertain whether the bowler intends to bowl right handed or left handed, over or round the wicket, and shall so inform the striker. It is unfair if the bowler fails to notify the umpire of a change in his/her mode of delivery.  In this case the umpire shall call and signal No ball.

21.1.2 Underarm bowling shall not be permitted except by special agreement before the match.

21.2 Fair delivery – the arm

For a delivery to be fair in respect of the arm the ball must not be thrown.

A ball is fairly delivered in respect of the arm if, once the bowler’s arm has reached the level of the shoulder in the delivery swing, the elbow joint is not straightened partially or completely from that instant until the ball has left the hand.  This definition shall not debar a bowler from flexing or rotating the wrist in the delivery swing.

Although it is the primary responsibility of the striker’s end umpire to assess the fairness of a delivery in this respect, there is nothing in this Law to debar the bowler’s end umpire from calling and signalling No ball if he/she considers that the ball has been thrown.

21.5 Fair delivery – the feet

For a delivery to be fair in respect of the feet, in the delivery stride

21.5.1 the bowler’s back foot must land within and not touching the return crease appertaining to his/her stated mode of delivery.

21.5.2 the bowler’s front foot must land with some part of the foot, whether grounded or raised

-       on the same side of the imaginary line joining the two middle stumps as the return crease described in 21.5.1, and

-       behind the popping crease.

If the bowler’s end umpire is not satisfied that all of these three conditions have been met, he/she shall call and signal No ball. 

There are many more conditions that would warrant a ‘no-ball’.  One run  penalty shall be scored as a No ball extra and shall be debited against the bowler.   Any runs completed by the batsmen or any boundary allowance shall be credited to the striker if the ball has been struck by the bat; otherwise they shall also be scored as Byes or Leg byes as appropriate. A No ball shall not count as one of the over. 

Spotting a no-ball should be the simpler of the many tasks of an umpire, right? There's a line and either part of the foot lands behind it or it doesn't. It doesn't have anything to do with assessing trajectory and swing. It's not about gauging how high the ball bounced and where it struck the pad; or whether that sound was bat on ball or bat on ground; or whether the fielder got his fingers underneath the ball. It's just a line that has either been crossed or not.

R Ashwin hadn't bowled a front-foot no-ball in close to 3340 overs across 74 Test matches before the Chennai Test against England. In his 75th  Test, however, he was called for overstepping five times in his 73 overs. Shahbaz Nadeem and Jack Leach were called for overstepping in Chennai too, while in Karachi, Yasir Shah and Nauman Ali bowled no-balls against South Africa. There were quite a few errant spinners in the Chattogram Test too - Jomel Warrican alone sent down five. This isn't a surprise, really. It's the result of TV umpires taking over on the adjudicating on no-balls.

Spotting no-balls is not as easy a task for the on-field umpire as it may seem, as noted here. On-field umpires were calling no-balls only when they were absolutely certain of the infringement, which carried an unwritten benefit-of-doubt clause within it. But since the ICC put front-foot no-balls on the TV umpires' plate in July 2020, there's been a spike in the number in Test cricket, and that benefit of doubt has vanished.

To conclude with some statistics – the highest no. of no balls bowled in a single innings is 40 that occurred in England Vs West Indies at St Johns in 1986 and in the test between Australia and West Indies at Adelaide in 1989.  The max no. of no balls in a Test occurred in Bridgetown in 1987 between West Indies and Pakistan – 103.

Interesting !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
16.2.2021. 

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