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A free hit in cricket is an advantage afforded to the batter using which he or she cannot be dismissed off a delivery immediately following a no-ball.
The free hit rule was first introduced to limited overs cricket in 2007. At that stage a free hit was awarded to a batter only if the bowler had overstepped the bowling line.
Later in 2015, this cricket law was changed to include all the other ways a no-balls can be called too.
It states that a batter cannot be dismissed off the next ball after a no-ball has been bowled by a bowler other than getting run out or through two others rare ways – hit the ball twice and obstructing the field.
This rule is a way to penalise a bowler who has either transgressed the bowling crease or has been called a no-ball for any other reason (either for bowling more bouncers than allowed or a waist-high full-toss or having less fielders than stipulated within the fielding restrictions).
In cricket, a free hit is a delivery to a batsman in which the batsman cannot be dismissed by any methods other than those applicable for a no-ball, namely run out, hit the ball twice and obstructing the field. It is relevant in One Day Internationals and Twenty20 matches. pic.twitter.com/dsx9XkQUNV
— SportsZone24 (@Sportszone24bd) March 17, 2022
How does the free hit penalise the bowler?
Very simply speaking if a batter knows he or she cannot be dismissed off a particular delivery, the ball can be powerfully hit to any part of the field without such a worry. This allows the batter to line himself/herself up and slam the ball to the fence in an easier manner.
Even more interestingly, a batter can earn whatever runs come his or her way even if the batter is dismissed in any of the other ways than run-out, hit the ball twice and obstructing the field.
What this implies is that if a batter hits the ball and that’s caught at the fence, he/she can still keep running and add to the score tally. Same with bowled (can add byes to the team runs) or even if the ball hits the pad and could have been lbw (can add leg-byes to the team runs).
At the 2022 T20 World Cup, Indian batsman Virat Kohli was bowled off a free hit with the ball rolling away after hitting the stumps and allowing him to run two more byes.
Field change restrictions
What makes it even more difficult for the fielding team and the bowler is if the same batter who had received the n0-ball is on strike, the fielding captain cannot change the field.
The captain can, however, change his/her field if the strike is changed and the non-striker comes to the batting crease to face the free hit ball. It can also be changed if a new batter comes to strike for any other reason like the striker getting run-out off the no-ball.
In case a no-ball is called for having lesser than stipulated fielders inside the 30-yard circle, the field would have to be changed. In this example, extra fielder(s) must be called inside the circle.
How is a free hit signalled at Cricket World Cup 2023?
A free hit is called by one of the two on-field umpires. It is signalled by the umpire making circular motions with his/her hand over the head.
What happens if there’s a no-ball or a wide off the free hit?
If a bowler bowls either a wide or a no-ball off the free hit, the free hit is carried over to the next delivery. This continues till the bowler has sent down a legitimate delivery.
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