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Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Nagpur Test - Nathan Lyon's feat !!!

Starting with a Cricket Q -    what connects  the famous bowlers - M Muralidaran (ICC/SL); A Kumble (IND); SK Warne (AUS);  JM Anderson (ENG); SCJ Broad (ENG); NM Lyon (AUS) &  CA Walsh (WI)  ?? 

-         Two off-spinners, two leggies,  3 right arm  pace bowlers   !!  

In the recently concluded Nagpur Test – the most experienced Nathan Lyon had a poor match bowling 49 overs – 13 maidens – giving away 126 runs for a solitary wicket but debutant Todd Murphy had a great match – 47-12-124-7 !!


In Cricket, (specifically in limited overs fomat) – one hears a beep, the Umpire rotates his hand over the head – then there is the free hit – a No Ball !!  - there used to be a myth in circulation that  5 famous great bowlers never bowled a no-ball in their Career – names given mostly at Lance Gibbs, Ian Botham, Richard Hadlee, Dennis Lillee &  Kapil Dev !!!  

‘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]    

Whenever we buy goods, we ask for ‘home delivery’ – another form of delivery.  Pizza is the immediate example that strikes one’s mind.     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.    

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.    

Spotting no-balls is not as easy a task for the on-field umpire as it may seem !! ICC feels so. 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.  

Australian off-spinner Nathan Lyon is regarded as one of the best bowlers in modern-day cricket. His knack to catch batsmen in his spinning web is perceptible. The 33-year-old has been carrying Australia’s bowling department quite well in their home as well as in overseas conditions. Interestingly, Lyon carries a unique record to his name which no other Indian or Australian bowler has managed to maintain in Test cricket. Lyon has bowled a total of 30064 balls in Test cricket and has never overstepped during this massive spell.   


In his 116 tests, he has taken 461  wickets  in his 30064 deliveries while Ravichandran Ashwin in 89 tests 23741 balls has 457 wickets !!    

Concluding why it was a myth about those greats not bowling a no- ball – Kapil Dev no doubt was one among the best Cricketers ever played for India and at the time of his retirement – his 434 was the highest tests.  Yet, he bowled  a no ball in his very first over in debut at Faisalabad. More over the statistics are a bit tweaky .. .. till 1983 score card did not contain the no balls as only runs scored off the bat were debited to bowlers.  Each country had a different test and  by 2nd Mar 1984 all Nations started following it.  

In case you still remember the Q at the start, these 7 Cricketers have bowled more than 30000 deliveries in Test Cricket – M Muralidharan 44039 balls / 800 wickets; Anil Kumble 40850/619; Share Warne 40705/708; J Andrson 37907/675; Stuart Broad 31982/566; Nathan Lyon 30064/461; Courtney Walsh 30019/519.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

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