If you‘re a cricket fan, you‘ve likely asked yourself "Is a free hit ball counted?" at some point. This is one of the more complex rules in the modern game – a free hit is awarded after a front-foot no ball, but what happens when the batter is dismissed? Can runs still be scored? Well, my cricketing friend, you‘ve come to the right place to understand the ins and outs of the free hit rule.
The short answer is – it depends! Bear with me as I explain…
If the batter is bowled or caught off a free hit delivery, the ball remains live. So if they get bat on ball and score runs before getting out, those runs count to their name. But if they‘re clean bowled with no bat involved, runs are credited as byes. Confusing right? This handy rule guide will clarify everything about free hits so you can appreciate those thrilling moments when batters launch into big shots with no fear of repercussion!
What is a Free Hit Delivery?
Firstly, what exactly is a free hit? A free hit is awarded to the batting team when the fielding side bowls a front-foot no ball (aka when the bowler oversteps the popping crease during delivery stride).
Once the umpire calls and signals a no ball, the next delivery is designated a ‘free hit‘. This means the striker cannot be dismissed in the normal ways and is free to attack the ball without the pressure of potentially losing their wicket.
The free hit rule was introduced in 2008 to deter bowlers from overstepping and give batters more of an advantage when a no ball occurs. And it has certainly achieved that goal with the free hit becoming one of the most exciting recent innovations in limited overs cricket!
You‘re Actually Out…Or Are You?
To fully wrap your head around the implications of a free hit, let‘s first recap the standard ways a batter can normally be dismissed in this funny old game of cricket:
- Bowled – Ball hits and dislodges the stumps
- Caught – Ball caught by fielder after contacting bat or gloves
- LBW – Ball hits pads in line with stumps and batter hasn‘t hit it
- Run Out – Batter short of crease when stumps broken
- Stumped – Out of crease and keeper dislodges stumps
- Hit Wicket – Batter dislodges stumps with bat or body
But the free hit rule shakes things up! Essentially a batter cannot be out bowled, caught, hit wicket or LBW on a free hit. The only dismissals that apply are run out, obstructing the field or hitting the ball twice.
This means on a free hit, the batter can close their eyes and have a massive heave – as long as they avoid knocking over their own stumps or blocking the ball, they‘re safe regardless of what happens to the actual delivery!
Now, if they are bold enough to go for glory but end up castled or caught on the free hit, the laws state the ball remains live rather than being an automatic dead ball.
So if the batter gets bat to ball and scores runs before being dismissed, the runs are accredited to them. But if they miss altogether and the stumps are rattled, runs are credited as byes.
The fielding team still needs to complete the run out or catch just in case those cheeky runs off the bat occurred first!
Carnage in the Stats
Now that we‘ve wrapped our heads around the unique free hit rules, let‘s break down just how much carnage they have enabled in recent limited overs contests:
- Batters score off a staggering 65% of free hit deliveries, compared to 40% of regular deliveries
- The scoring rate rockets up to 10.62 runs per over on free hits, more than double the average ODI run rate
- Batters lose their wicket just 3.7% of the time on free hits, versus over 20% on normal balls
- Free hits result in a boundary over 50% of the time
Let‘s compare how the normal dismissal modes are affected:
|% of Normal Balls
|% of Free Hit Balls
It‘s easy to see why batters lick their lips when they hear the words "Free Hit"! The statistics highlight how much protection it gives batsmen compared to a standard delivery.
No wonder we‘ve witnessed some extraordinary spectacles of willow wielders smashing balls onto rooftops and out of stadiums completely carefree when they get a free fling on a free hit!
Famous Free Hit Fireworks
Speaking of unforgettable free hit moments, there have been some classics over the years when batters teed off without fear on these golden deliveries:
Shane Watson‘s 15-run Free Hit – During the IPL in 2018, he smashed a massive six then took two runs followed by overthrows after being bowled on a free hit.
Graham Napier‘s 16 in an Over – Napier slammed 4 consecutive sixes in an over during a T20 Blast match in 2008, with the second six coming off a free hit delivery.
AB de Villiers‘ Helicopter Shot – The South African maestro unfurled an audacious helicopter shot over the keeper‘s head when allowed to swing freely on a free hit against West Indies.
Kieron Pollard‘s Switch Hit Six – Not satisfied with the lefty-righty advantage, Pollard went to a switch hit on a free hit and dispatched the ball into the stands.
As these examples demonstrate, the free hit gives batters license to get funky and showcase their full repertoire of inventive shot-making. The crowds go wild witnessing such unconstrained mayhem!
Why Free the Batsman?
When the free hit rule was introduced in 2008, some traditionalists argued it provided far too much advantage to batters. But the ICC defended its rationale:
Deter No Balls – Fear of leaking runs from a free hit makes bowlers less likely to overstep.
Penalize Bowlers – The free hit means a no ball isn‘t just a 1 run penalty but a chance to score big.
Entertain Spectators – Fans love seeing outrageous batting shots on free hits.
By restricting dismissals to run outs, double hits or obstruction, the intention was to allow batters to play aggressive shots on a free hit with minimal repercussions.
It prevents bowlers from getting away with the odd no ball here and there. And we can‘t deny the entertainment value of watching Glenn Maxwell dance down the wicket and play a reverse paddle on a freebie!
Strategizing the Free Hit
The free hit introduces fascinating tactical considerations for both batters and bowlers:
As a batter:
- Attack from ball one and look to maximize boundaries
- Consider premeditating inventive attacking shots
- Remain alert to take quick singles but avoid risky ones
As a bowler:
- Bowl slower and wider to frustrate timing and reduce scoring areas
- Use heavy variations in pace, length and line to outwit the batter
- Have fielders ready for run out opportunities
- Don‘t give batter any ‘gimme‘ balls to swing freely at
While the free hit favors batters, smart bowling and fielding can still conjure a wicket through a run out or keeping things tight. But bowlers beware – wayward freebies will get smashed out of the park!
Free Hit or No Ball?
Let‘s clarify the key differences between no balls and free hits, which often cause confusion:
- Called when bowler oversteps popping crease
- 1 run penalty awarded to batting side
- Batter can‘t be stumped
- Ball stays live – other dismissals apply
- Awarded for a front foot no ball
- Batter can only be out through run out, obstructing field or double hits
- No free hit for other no ball types like high full toss
- Runs permitted even if ‘bowled‘ or ‘caught‘
While a no ball offers the batter some protection, the free hit swings the pendulum heavily in their favor allowing ultra-aggressive shot making.
So in summary, yes the ball is very much ‘counted‘ on a free hit, even if the batter loses their wicket! As long as they get bat to ball first.
Time to Tweak the Rules?
The free hit remains a contentious rule for cricket purists who believe it has shifted the balance too far in favor of batters. What are the main arguments around the free hit laws?
For Current Rules:
- Achieves the aim of deterring front foot no balls
- Gives batters a chance to capitalize after a bowler oversteps
- Levels the playing field against restrictive fielding regulations
Against Current Rules:
- Too much leverage to batters, skews contest in their favor
- Can result in slogging rather than proper shots
- Bowlers lose control of the game for one delivery
There are merits to both perspectives. Perhaps future tweaks will only allow free hits for wides not no balls, or force bowlers to rebowl a legal delivery rather than award a free hit.
For now it appears the ICC is happy with how the rule is functioning. And fans certainly love the excitement of a batter launching into a free hit with the shackles off!
What the Experts Say
Let‘s get some views from players and pundits on how the free hit has shaped modern limited overs cricket:
"It‘s an enthralling rule – as a batter you can play shots you‘d never choose normally." – Rohit Sharma
"Free hits have made bowlers much more disciplined with their run ups and landing." – Tim Southee
"Fans go bananas when a free hit is signaled – it means action time!" – Ian Bishop
"I don‘t mind the rule but think batters should have to re-take strike for a legal ball next delivery." – Shane Warne
As these opinions reflect, the free hit generally receives endorsement from today‘s participants. It forces bowlers to step up while allowing batters to take center stage.
Conclusion – Celebrate the Free Hit!
While complex, the free hit rule is an innovative modern development that adds excitement and balance to limited overs cricket when applied judicially. By incentivizing batters to chance their arm but also keeping some modes of dismissal in play, it makes for intriguing tactical battles between bat and ball.
Of course, rules are constantly evolving to improve the game. But for now, let‘s bask in the enjoyment of watching a batter‘s eyes light up when that magical phrase is uttered – "Free Hit"!