Blind, Deaf and Clueless: Wide of the Mark

Wide of the Mark


Premeditated shabbiness has been causing a lot of anguish on cricket fields for a very long time. One of cricketers of the late 1700s was quoted as describing the introduction of an LBW as an attempt to stop ‘premeditated shabbiness” i.e. what we now call ‘padding up’. I get some raised eyebrows and quizzical  looks when I explain that I will not allow runs in the form of leg byes in one of my Merk games, that I am umpiring, because of ‘premeditated shabbiness’. “He hasn’t played a shot” is the cry from the fielding team. But I mutter “that was shabby” and signal dead ball. To get a leg bye a batsman must either play a shot at the ball or try to avoid being hit by the ball, but bowlers can also start exhibiting premeditated shabbiness.


I like these old expressions as they are much more descriptive than modern phrases and often get closer to the truth. I always use the term bumpers rather than bouncers, as does Gideon Haigh, which is a good enough reason, on its Pat Malone, to buy his books.


I was having a discussion on Sunday with Dave McNamara the secretary of the Merks. Our match was rain affected and we had reached a stage where so much time had been lost that a result was impossible but under our Merk rules we could not call the game off. Dave agreed that there was no help from the rules but no one would complain that we went home early. Sometimes there are situations where the teams want to call a match off to ensure they both will get some points from the match. Dave said that most of the Merk rule book is a response to situations (premeditated shabbiness) that have occurred in past seasons, but Dave would have no idea that the Law book has grown, often, or possibly usually, to respond to premeditated shabbiness.


The Wide Law was the response of the Law makers to, you guessed it, premeditated shabbiness. It goes like this.


Back in the early 1800s there was great interest in what were called Single Wicket Matches. In these games between one up to four players would be pitted against each other, often for prize money and betting was rife. Indeed the Laws of Cricket in the middle 1800s actually had Laws to regulate betting! In the purist form of the Single Wicket game just two players were pitted against each other but they could only score when the ball was hit between the ‘bounds’ i.e. between mid off and mid on. You had to bowl at least one ball per minute but you can see on a hot English day the bowlers would soon tire.


OK, I admit that hot English days are few and far between but what would a bowler do for a rest in these matches before wides existed in the Laws? He would bowl several deliveries that the batsman had no chance of reaching, of course. Premeditated shabbiness rears its ugly head again. So a Wide Law was introduced and here it is the essential part of it.


The Laws of Cricket | Wide Ball

  1. Judging a Wide

(a) If the bowler bowls a ball, not being a No ball, the umpire shall adjudge it a Wide if, according to the definition in (b) below, in his opinion the ball passes wide of the striker where he is and which also would have passed wide of him standing in a normal guard position.

(b) The ball will be considered as passing wide of the striker unless it is sufficiently within his reach for him to be able to hit it with his bat by means of a normal cricket stroke.

  1. Delivery not a Wide

The umpire shall not adjudge a delivery as being a Wide,

(a) if the striker, by moving,

either (i) causes the ball to pass wide of him, as defined in 1(b) above

or (ii) brings the ball sufficiently within his reach to be able to hit it by means of a normal cricket stroke.

(b) if the ball touches the striker’s bat or person.

  1. Call and signal of Wide ball

(a) If the umpire adjudges a delivery to be a Wide he shall call and signal Wide ball as soon as the ball passes the striker’s wicket. It shall, however, be considered to have been a Wide from the instant of delivery, even though it cannot be called Wide until it passes the striker’s wicket.

(b) The umpire shall revoke the call of Wide ball if there is then any contact between the ball and the striker’s bat or person.


Above is the essential part of the wide Law and notice the ball must pass within reach of the batsman so he can hit it with a cricket stroke. It is not actually how wide of the batsman the ball passes that is important. It’s whether he can hit it. This wording reflects the ancient annoyance at bowlers that were deliberately bowling deliveries that the batsman could not reach. The ICC One Day Cricket Wide Rules, in force today, are designed to stop something else entirely.


One part of the Wide Law completely unknown to all, except some umpires, is the bit that says if you bring a ball within reach you are expected to try to hit the bloody thing. Therefore, if a ball pitches ten yards off the wicket, but the batsman runs across to it, he has stopped his ball from being a wide because he can now reach the delivery with a cricket stroke.


When the ball has passed the batsman the umpire is required to call and signal Wide Ball, and when the ball goes dead the umpire shall turn to the scorers and signal Wide Ball again until the scorers respond to this second signal. Now usually the scorers have seen and hopefully heard (umpires must yell their calls so all on and off the field can understand what is going on) the first call and signal, and will have their eyes down on the score book bringing it up to date. I just stand there like a statue, with my arms stretched out, silently demanding that they respond properly, and at the appropriate time.


Now I have been umpiring with our new umpires all season, some of whom have been joy to officiate with. A few are already very competent umpires. More are what I call soaks, i.e. they want to improve and take advice on board. A few have been zebras (zebras are closely related to horses but no one has been able to breed a zebra that is trainable or ridable) and these blokes stick out like me trying to get a Strauman twelve mm, 4.8, wide neck implant out of its packet.


One of the zebras came up against the Wide Law and that will be the point of next week’s essay.



  1. Dave Brown says

    Still loving this series, Phil. Keep ’em coming

Leave a Comment