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Law 33 changes - Handled The Ball

Law 33

Changes | Reason for change | Interpretation & Application


Changes to the Law are in italics

33.1.  Out Handled the ball

The striker is out Handled the ball if, except in the circumstances of 2 below, in the act of playing a ball delivered by the bowler, he wilfully strikes the ball with a hand not holding the bat.  This will apply whether No ball has been called or not and whether it is the first strike or a second or subsequent strike.  

The act of playing the ball shall also encompass both playing at the ball and striking the ball more than once in defence of his wicket.

33.2.  Not out Handled the ball

Notwithstanding 1 above,

(a) the striker will not be out Handled the ball if the strike with a hand not holding the bat is in order to avoid injury.

(b) the striker will not be out Handled the ball but will be liable to be out Obstructing the field if he makes a strike with a hand not holding the bat
    (i)    unless trying to avoid injury, as a lawful second or subsequent strike which prevents a catch.  See Law 37.3 (Obstructing a ball from being caught).
    (ii)    unless trying to avoid injury, after he has completed the act of playing the ball, as defined in 1 above.
    (iii)    at any time while the ball is in play, to return the ball to any fielder, without the consent of a fielder.  See Law 37.4 (Returning the ball to a fielder).

33.3.  Bowler does not get credit

The bowler does not get credit for the wicket.

Reason for changes

There has been some confusion over both the Handled the ball and Obstructing the field Laws, most notably which Law should apply in given situations, but also when self-defence gave the batsman immunity. 

It has been agreed that the demarcation between the two should be when the striker has “finished playing the ball” – before that point in time Handled the ball applies, and afterwards Obstructing the field takes over. The result is that the striker can be dismissed Handled the ball but only for a very short period.
This change not only affects Laws 33 and 37, but also any references in the Laws whereby both methods of dismissal could apply simultaneously – now that there is a specified “cut-off point”, both cannot apply at the same time.

Interpretation and application

There has been a major change to this Law.  Defining what constitutes handling the ball – ball in play, no consent from a fielder, wilful use of a hand not holding the bat – has not altered.  Handling the ball to avoid injury is still permitted without penalty.  The big difference is that all this applies only to the time when the striker is playing, or attempting to play the ball, either as a first or as a subsequent stroke.  In all other situations, handling the ball comes under Obstructing the field.  It is still, as before, Obstructing the field if using a hand not holding the bat in making a second or subsequent stroke prevents a catch.

It has already been explained how this affects Laws 18, 25, and 30.  The impact on Law 37 (Obstructing the field) will be dealt with under that Law.

Distinction between Obstructing the field and Handled the ball

  • The ‘offence’ in this incident is with a hand not holding the bat but, with the change to Law 33 restricting the moment when Handled the ball applies, only Law 37 (Obstructing the field) is now relevant.
  • For it to be given out Obstructing the field, the action of the batsman must be wilful and, if it is with a hand not holding the bat, it must not be done in self-defence.
  • It is not always clear, as in this example, whether the batsman’s motive is self-defence or obstructing the field.  The umpires have to use their judgement on this.  

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