Law 36 (Leg before wicket)


If you have no interest in the minutiae of the laws of cricket then you can skip this post with my blessing. Cricket nerds read on.

I believe, but I cannot now prove, that the LBW law was different in the olden days when I played the game regularly. The current set of laws dates from 2000 with a number of changes in 2003. I finished playing the game regularly about then.

Back in the day it was generally believed by club cricketers that if a straight ball hit the batsman’s pad on the full then he was out LBW only if the ball would also have hit the stumps on the full. In other words, if the ball would have pitched in the blockhole then the batsman was Not Out on the grounds that it was impossible to predict what the ball would have done when it pitched in that rough area of the wicket.

Now it seems the interpretation of the law, and in fact the law itself, is a little different. Here is Law 36.2(b) as it currently stands: “it is to be assumed that the path of the ball before interception would have continued after interception, irrespective of whether the ball might have pitched subsequently or not.”

And the guide to its interpretation says “The Law does not require any judgment as to what might have happened if the ball had pitched after any interception, so the vagaries of the pitch are eliminated from the equation”.

Heavens to betsy! The batsman is out whatever the ball might have done when it pitched. Whatever happened to giving the batsman the benefit of the doubt? In fact there is no reference to this concept at all in the Laws of Cricket (2000 Code), something that I found quite startling as will many other people, I suspect. The only time when the batsman is given the benefit of doubt is when the umpire has referred a decision to the other umpire because he believes the other umpire was in a better position to adjudicate. If they cannot agree on a decision then, and only then, is the batsman given Not Out due to doubt in the umpire’s mind.

There is very little chance I will find myself umpiring a serious game of cricket any time soon, but I am still having a Trevor Bailey moment over this. How many of my other dearly-held beliefs about the laws are also wrong?

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2 Responses to “Law 36 (Leg before wicket)”


  1. 1 Dominic Sayers August 14, 2006 at 16:21

    I did get hit on the head several times

    This explains a great deal

  2. 2 malcolm August 14, 2006 at 16:05

    Back in the day it was generally believed by club cricketers that if a straight ball hit the batsman’s pad on the full then he was out LBW only if the ball would also have hit the stumps on the full

    I don’t believe that this was the case back in the days when I used to play cricket – at least I have no memory of that – but I did get hit on the head several times. I do very clearly remember being given out LBW when the ball hit me direct, full on the foot in front of middle and being very upset about it as only a teenager can be and asking myself and thorugh a withering glance at the umpire how anyone could be sure the ball would have hit middle as it hadn’t pitched.


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