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How to re-write the rule book Published: 01 November 2010

How to re-write the rule book

You're facing your big brother in the back garden and you finally manage to get hold of one of his fast balls and send it flying over the fence into Mr. Grumpy’s garden.

You rejoice in this moment of sibling superiority but then realise what you have done. Mr. Grumpy never lets you have the ball back and so Dad’s local rule of "six and out if it goes into Mr. Grumpy’s garden" applies - normally followed by a lesson about the merits of keeping the ball on the ground.

Anyone who has played back-garden cricket will be familiar with this scene but is likely to think "surely local rules cannot apply in a ‘proper’ game of cricket, can they?"

The answer is, yes they can.

The Law permits the allowances for boundaries to be altered from four and six, if required. Law 3.3(a) (iii) places an obligation on the umpires to agree with the players the boundary of the field of play and the allowances for boundaries.

Furthermore, Law 19.4(a) states: "Before the toss, the umpires shall agree with both captains the runs to be allowed for boundaries. In deciding the allowances, the umpires and captains shall be guided by the prevailing custom of the ground."

Umpires must decide whether a tree within the field of play, like at Canterbury, is to be designated a boundary or not. Each ground will have a local rule about this.

There are many grounds around the world where, for reasons of the ground’s size or proximity to something, there are local rules altering the runs that a batsman will score for hitting the ball to certain areas.

A common one at particularly small grounds is that there can be no sixes. Another one, quite commonly used, is that to score a six the ball must clear a particular wall or fence.

Unfortunately, this is not within the Laws. If a wall (or a fence) marks the position of a boundary, then the line in which the wall meets the ground is the boundary edge.

Hitting the wall at any point above the ground is defined in Law 19.3(c)(i) as "grounded beyond the boundary edge" i.e. what normally would score a six.

It is perfectly in order to agree that this should only be a four.

That is equivalent to agreeing the allowances as four and four instead of four and six. To allow six, however, for a ball clearing the wall means that a second boundary is being defined, at the minimum distance beyond the wall at which the ball hit from the crease could land.

A field of play cannot have two boundaries.

If a club with particular local rules plays within a league or competition structure, it is customary to gain the relevant authority’s permission to use those rules.

"Six and out" itself is a more difficult one.

MCC is aware of grounds that try to play with this regulation (normally as a deterrant to hitting the ball to somewhere dangerous) and, for a friendly or non-competitive game, it would be their right to do so.

However, it is very unlikely that a league or competition authority would allow such a rule to be used in any kind of
official cricket.

Hitting a six is not one of the ways of being dismissed under the Laws and MCC would not countenance a rule that arbitrarily added another method of dismissal to the canon of the Laws.

If a club is keen to deter batsmen from hitting sixes to a certain area, a preferable sanction is that such shots are
worth no runs. At least one ground is known where even balls hitting a wall full pitch, let alone clearing it, results as a dot in the scorebook.

Mr. Grumpy would be happy with that.


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