EXPLAINED: Why was Pat Cummins' wide delivery to Virat Kohli called a no-ball and earned the batter a free-hit?
Despite three early blows, India defeated Australia comprehensively by seven wickets, courtesy of a terrific partnership between Virat Kohli and KL Rahul. They played prudent knocks under immense pressure to provide a maiden victory for their side. Australia had their moments throughout the game, but the Men in Blue overcame all the obstacles to start the campaign with a win.
During the second innings, Pat Cummins, who had an off-day as a bowler, bowled a leg-cutter outside the playing area in the 28th over. Ideally, when a bowler bowls outside the side strips on the pitch, the umpires give it as a wide, providing an extra run without an increase in the ball count. So, this delivery by the Australian captain should be deemed the same.
However, the on-field umpire, Chris Gaffaney, had to get help from the third umpire before making a decision. The TV umpire checked the replays of the delivery and conveyed his verdict. Chris then opened his arm and signalled a no-ball.
It was a correct decision, and the umpire showed excellent rule awareness. It’s well within the laws. The rule states if the ball lands directly off the pitch on which the action happens, the ball is a no-ball and not a wide.
MCC’s law 21.7 states, “The umpire shall call and signal No ball if a ball which he/she considers to have been delivered, without having previously touched bat or person of the striker, pitches wholly or partially off the pitch as defined in Law 6.1 (Area of pitch) before it reaches the line of the striker’s wicket. When a non-turf pitch is being used, this will apply to any ball that wholly or partially pitches off the artificial surface.”
So, while Cummins bowled within the playing area, the ball accidentally slipped from his hands, probably due to sweat on his palm in humid conditions in Chennai, and landed off the pitch. The replays confirmed the same, and the umpires gave a no-ball and, consequently, a free hit. The extra delivery went for a boundary off Virat Kohli’s willow.
The ball landed outside the pitch, so a no-ball was awarded to the batting team. Maybe a no-ball is given because any action happening outside the surface used is difficult to control for the batters. It’s very hard to play such deliveries for a batter from their usual batting position.
No bowler bowls it deliberately. It just happens for various reasons. In Pat Cummins’ case, the reason was excessive sweat, and the bowler couldn’t control the ball while delivering, as it slipped out.