Andrew Flintoff may have taken a wicket at Lord’s with his front foot suspiciously close to the popping crease but it is Australia’s spinners who have caused the most difficulty with some examples of very close calls for no balls in relation to the feet.
These have resulted in confusion among commentators and viewers. Nathan Hauritz and Marcus North have attracted the most controversy with the placement of their front and back feet respectively.
Law 24.5 states:
"For a delivery to be fair in respect of the feet, in the delivery stride
(i) the bowler’s back foot must land within and not touching the return crease.
(ii) the bowler’s front foot must land with some part of the foot, whether grounded or raised, behind the popping crease.
If the umpire at the bowler’s end is not satisfied that both these conditions have been met, he shall call and signal no ball."
In the case of the back foot restrictions in (i) above, the bowler is allowed to have his heel raised over the return crease, as long as the grounded part of his foot is not touching that crease.
The return crease is only relevant for the landing of the back foot of the delivery stride. When Marcus North was bowling his right-arm offspin from round the wicket, his back foot often was getting close to the return crease.
His front foot sometimes landed well wide of the return crease but that is entirely legal, providing it lands with some part either grounded or raised behind the popping crease.
The front foot is harder for the umpire to judge, particularly when a spinner is bowling. The crucial point is the position of the foot when it lands.
It is not a no ball if the heel lands behind the crease but then slides forward over the crease. Neither is it a no ball if the heel is raised but behind the crease at the moment when the foot lands.
The actual crease is just the edge - nearest to the umpire - of the line. The heel must be behind this when the foot lands. The back of the heel on the marked line is not good enough.
The situation that created confusion surrounding Nathan Hauritz was when the ball of his foot landed beyond the crease, with his heel raised.
In the first Ashes Test at Cardiff, Hauritz was called five times for overstepping. On some occasions, his raised heel was beyond the crease at the moment that his foot landed, only for it then to come back over the crease as he pivoted in his bowling action.
This is a no ball as there was no part of his foot, either grounded or raised, behind the crease at the moment that the foot landed.