Rules of Cricket

This guide is intended for captains and player-umpires in East League matches where no independent umpires are available. It suggests how the Laws of cricket can be applied in practice in a situation where the players have to umpire their own game. It is not intended to cover every point in the Laws.

In the absence of independent umpires, an even greater responsibility than usual falls upon the captains of the respective sides. To a very large extent, the relationship between the captains will set the tone for the entire day's cricket. Captains have responsibility for the conduct of their sides, and for ensuring that the game is conducted not only within the Laws, but also within the Spirit of cricket.

Specific points about the Laws, and how they can be applied in the East League are listed below. The full text of the Laws, and official interpretations can be found at These should ideally be studied by all captains, and players. Further guidance on the practicalities of umpiring, and the specific factors to take into account when making various decisions are in the MCC's open learning manual, available at

Throughout this guide the male gender is used purely for brevity. Men and women are equally welcome as players, umpires and scorers in the East League.

Unless specifically noted, all references to East League rules apply equally to other ESCA Competitions.

Law 1 - Players and Captains

Team sheets (11 names on a piece of notebook paper is fine) should be checked by the captains before the toss, and then given to the scorers to aid in spelling names correctly, identifying players, etc. Players who are under 16 should be noted on the team sheet, so that this can be carried over onto the match return form.

Team sheets are particularly important where not all of a side's players are at the ground for the start of a match. The captain must identify and name all of his players before the toss - "whoever arrives first" is not an acceptable alternative.

Team sheets can be amended after the toss, but only with the consent of the opposing captain.

Law 2 - Substitutes and runners

A player who is injured or becomes ill after the match has started is entitled to a substitute to field for him. If a player is unavailable for any other reason (late arrival at ground, pressing family issue etc.), there is no automatic right to a substitute, but the opposing captain may give permission. It is hoped that permission for a substitute would be given in almost all circumstances. Even if permission is granted for a substitute to be used, there is no obligation on the batting team to offer one of its members as a substitute.

A substitute, used for whatever reason may only field - he may not bat, bowl or keep wicket.

If a fielder is more than 15 minutes late for the start, or leaves the field for more than 15 minutes, he may not bowl until he has been on the field for as long as he was off it.

If a batsman is ill or injured, and retires, he may resume his innings at the fall of a later wicket. If he retires for any other reason, the permission of the opposing captain is necessary for him to resume his innings. Provided that there was a genuine reason for the retirement, it is hoped that this permission would usually be given. Note that this applies only to the 11 members of the team, and that a substitute can never bat.

Runners add a significant degree of complexity to a situation, and in the absence of specialist umpires can cause serious complications. The Laws provide guidance about where runners, batsmen and umpires should stand in this event, but the general principle is that umpires should ensure that the runner is always on the far side of the pitch from them when judging run-outs etc.

Law 3 - Umpires

Although ideally umpires would be appointed to every East league game, in practice this is not possible. Where players have to umpire, they should remember that they are not in position to support their team, but to uphold the Laws and Spirit of the game.

Each team has the right to appoint an umpire. Where a club exercises this right, the captain should notify his opposite number at the earliest opportunity (when the two captains meet to toss up at the very latest). If only 1 club wishes to appoint an umpire, the captains may agree that the single umpire should stand at the bowler's end throughout the match, and have players umpire only from square leg. While an agreement of this type is not mandatory, a club cannot object to its opponents appointing an umpire to stand throughout the game at one end (i.e. alternately at the bowler's end and square leg).

Where neither club appoints a specialist umpire, player-umpires must be used. It is helpful if captains identify their player-umpires well ahead of time, to avoid pressing someone into service at the last minute. It is essential that 2 umpires are in the middle at all times. While not essential, it is helpful if, even if a white coat is available, some sort of tracksuit trousers or shorts, rather than cricket whites are worn while umpiring.

Player-umpires should, as far as possible, suspend their membership of a side for the duration of their umpiring shift. Even if decisions are given with scrupulous impartiality, it is not good for the confidence of the fielding side in an umpire to see him giving tactical advice to the batsmen, or engaging in social conversation between deliveries or overs. Umpires must treat each side equally, responding to requests for factual information in a helpful manner, but otherwise avoiding conversation as far as is possible and polite. Umpiring is a job that requires full concentration, and drinks, mobile phones (including headsets), music players, etc should not be taken on the field while umpiring.

Most of the common umpiring signals are well known, but a few points are worth emphasising. The signal for leg byes does not include raising an arm - touching a raised knee is all. Where multiple signals need to be made these should be done in sequence - it is not helpful to the scorers to have an umpire trying to signal no-ball and 4 runs at the same time, or any other combination.

In the absence of specialist umpires, decisions on the fitness of ground, weather and light should be made by the captains. For this reason amongst others, it is essential that the captain of the batting side is always available on the boundary when he is not batting himself, or at the very least has an appointed deputy who can act without consultation. Historically, most captains have been happy to play in less than ideal conditions in the interests of completing a game of cricket, and it is hoped that this will continue to be the case. Decisions about the fitness of conditions should ideally be divorced from the state of the game, but in practice this is difficult to achieve. However it should be noted that if conditions are fit for play up to the point at which a result can be counted (30 overs of the second innings in the top ESCA divisions), they are unlikely to become unplayable immediately after this point has been reached.

The fitness of a particular set of conditions is for the captains to determine, and little useful guidance can be given. The Laws refer to the situation where conditions are "dangerous or unreasonable". In no circumstances should play continue, or start, in situations where there is an obvious risk to the safety of any player or umpire.

As a guideline, and assuming normal cricket spikes are worn, bowlers must be able to run in and bowl without excessive fear of slipping. Batsman must be able to use their feet when playing shots, and also run between the wickets without excessive fear of slipping. Fielders within around 30 yards of the pitch should have reasonable freedom of movement, and there should be no standing surface water on any area of the field of play (boundaries may be moved in before a game starts if necessary). Providing the above conditions are met, there is no need to stop the game in light or moderate drizzle. Equally, if heavier rain eases off to drizzle, play can be restarted - there is no requirement in the Laws, or practical need, to wait until rain has completely stopped before restarting.

It should be noted that there is no requirement for each team to bat (or field) in similar conditions - if a sunny day turns to rain later on, this is a vagary of the Scottish weather and, providing conditions are currently playable, no account should be taken of the fact that there has been a deterioration from what went before.

The ball being wet and slippery is not, of itself, a reason to stop the game. Fielding sides are encouraged to take small towels on the field with them and, providing there is no waste of time, dry the ball on these towels where necessary.

Law 4 - Scorers

No game of cricket can take place without someone to record the action. As with umpires, in an ideal world 2 specialised scorers would be available for all games, but in practice this is unlikely to be the case. It is inevitable that spare players, particularly on the batting side will have to score. In the absence of specialist scorers, the side batting should keep both team's scorebooks, so that 2 players are scoring at all times. The 2 scorers should check key totals at least once every over.

The written team sheets prepared before the match should be left with the scorers for the duration. The scorers must acknowledge all umpires signals promptly, so that the umpire is sure that his signal has been seen. A waved hand is all that's required as an acknowledgement - there is no need for the scorer to mime the signal back to the umpire.

As with umpires, captains should select their player-scorers well ahead of time. These should be players with some knowledge of the Laws affecting scoring, such as how wides and no-balls are scored, which dismissals are credited to the bowler, etc. The essential duties of a scorer are to record the total number of runs, wickets, and overs bowled. Any other information (balls faced, detailed bowling figures etc.) is a refinement and should not distract from these primary tasks. It is not helpful for players or spectators to approach the scorers and ask details of individual performances while the game is in progress, as meeting these requests can easily result in ongoing action being missed.

In the absence of specialist umpires, the captains should check the scorebooks between innings, and confirm that they are happy with the records. While any minor or detailed queries can safely be left until after the game, it is essential that both sides know precisely what they are chasing/defending before the second innings begins.

The scoreboard should be operated and maintained by someone other than the person who is currently keeping the scorebook. As a minimum, the board should be updated at the end of every over, and should show the total, wickets lost, and overs completed.

It is helpful if all clubs within ESCA make efforts to recruit, train and retain specialist scorers, as this is a far more satisfactory situation than having players score 10-over shifts.

Law 5 - The ball

Each side must provide a new ball, of the approved type, for each game. If a ball is lost, the replacement must be of the same type, and should be in as similar a condition as possible. It is helpful, but not mandatory, for clubs to have a couple of spare balls available.

An old ball may be used to start an innings only with the explicit agreement of both captains. It may be quite reasonable if a fielding side wish to bowl with an old ball (of the correct type) when defending a very small total, but the captain of the bating should still be asked for his agreement.

Law 6 - The bat

There have been technical changes to this Law that will apply for the first time in the 2009 season. These will have no practical effect in the East League, as existing bats that do not meet the new specifications may continue to be used for the duration of their natural life. New bats that are bought from a reputable supplier should be graded as either A, B, or C - all of these grades are acceptable for ESCA cricket.

Law 7 - The pitch

Where 2 or more pitches are available, the choice is down to the home side, but this decision must be made before the toss, and notified to the visiting captain. It is helpful if the pitch to be used is clearly identifiable from the rest of the square. If a turf pitch is available and fit for play, this should be used in preference to any artificial pitch.

If a club intends to play on an artificial pitch, the visiting side should be notified well in advance. However, it is also wise for players to keep footwear suitable for artificial pitches in their kit-bags, as overnight or morning rain may mean that a prepared turf pitch becomes unplayable, and the only alternative to abandoning the game is to play on an artificial strip.

Law 9 - Creases

Careful attention should be paid to the measurements, but otherwise there should be few problems. While not ideal, it is unlikely to be a major problem if the rear extensions of the return creases or the sideways extension of the popping crease are less than the stated minimums.

Law 10 - Preparation and maintenance of the pitch

Any preparation of the pitch before the toss is down to the home side, and rolling may continue up until the time the toss is made. After the toss, the only maintenance that should take place is at the tea interval, when the captain of the side to bat has the option to have the pitch rolled for up to 7 minutes. If no groundsman is available, this rolling must be carried out by the home side. It is also helpful if creases are re-marked during the tea break.

Law 12 - Innings

The toss should be made between 15 and 30 minutes before the start of play - i.e. between 12.30 and 12.45 for a 1pm start. Even if a captain is late in arriving, this time should be kept, with a deputy taking responsibility for providing the team list, and making the toss. The decision on whether to bat or bowl first can be delayed, but only until 10 minutes before the start of play.

Law 15 - Intervals

East League rules lay down no precise timings for intervals, but it is normal for there to be one drinks interval at the mid-point of each innings. The tea interval between innings should be kept to 30 minutes.

If there is an interruption for rain in the later stages of the 1st innings, it is quite permissible to take tea while waiting for the rain to stop, finish the 1st innings, and then have only a 10 minute interval between innings. Equally, if the 1st innings finishes significantly ahead of schedule, it is reasonable to start the second innings after a 10-minute interval, and have tea either at an agreed point in the second innings, or at the conclusion of the game. Such arrangements should be agreed by the captains.

Law 16 - Start and End of play

The calls of Play and Time are helpful formalities, to make it clear to all concerned when play has begun or ended as appropriate. The extensive provisions of the Laws governing the last hour of play are not relevant in the East League.

Players should note that 1pm (1.30 in lower divisions) is intended to be the start of play, not the time for the toss, or the time when people start thinking about having their last cigarette, wandering out for a warm-up etc. Captains should take responsibility for ensuring their players are on the pitch promptly and the field is set in good time, so that play can commence at 1pm.

The only timing provision that can occur is the cut-off point of 8.30 pm. If play is not in progress at or after 8.30 the game is over; although play can continue to a natural conclusion if it is in progress at 8.30 and not subsequently interrupted.

Law 18 - Scoring Runs

Many of the points in this Law are well known and obvious. It is worth noting however that to complete a run, the bat (or foot) must be grounded over the popping crease, not merely on the line. Note also that, even if a run has been completed before the ball is caught, it does not count. This is in contrast to runs being completed before other dismissals, such as run outs.

Law 19 - Boundaries

Most East League grounds have the standard boundary allowances of 4 and 6 runs, with no obstructions within the field. Where this is not the case (at least 2 grounds have trees within the boundary), any local allowances must be confirmed before the toss.

The ideal boundary marking is a rope around the entire playing area, but where this is not possible a continuous line highlighted by flags or markers visible from the pitch will be adequate. It is less than ideal for there to be flags only with no line marking at all, but where this is inevitable, the boundary is defined as the straight line between each neighbouring pair of flags, not any notional circle or other extension. Where flags are used to highlight a line on the ground, the flags should be place in the middle of the thickness of the line, not inside the line as is practice on some grounds.

When a fielder is chasing a ball to the boundary, 4 is scored if the fielder is in contact at the same time with the ball, and the boundary or ground beyond the boundary. If the umpire is unable to see clearly, the word of the fielder should usually be accepted.

Law 21 - The Result

This should cause few problems. One point to be aware of when calculating run rates in a rain-affected game is that if a side is bowled out before using its allocation of overs, the run rate must be calculated as if the entire allocation of overs had been bowled. For example, if a side in a 50-over game is bowled out for 200 off 40 overs, its run rate is 4 runs/over (200/50), rather than 5 runs/over (200/40).

Law 22 - The over

It is well known that a wide or no-ball does not count as one of the 6 balls in an over. If dead ball is called before the batsman has the opportunity to play at the ball (e.g. because of an aborted run-up) this also does not count as one of the over. However, if dead ball is called after the batsman has had a chance to play at the ball (e.g. for disallowed leg-byes) this does count as one of the 6 balls.

When counting the 6 balls, umpires should get into a strict routine of dropping a counter into a pocket at the same point in each delivery. Both umpires should count the balls, to provide a check in case the umpire at the bowler's end loses track. A check with the scorers should be a last resort.

Law 23 - Dead Ball

Most of the instances of the ball becoming dead are self-explanatory, but some are not. Particularly troublesome is the point that the ball is dead "when both sides have ceased to regard it as in play". Simply put this means that the ball is dead when no-one is taking urgent action, either to field the ball and return it to one of the wickets; or to take a run. This should not be decided unless the ball is with or near one of the infielders (not necessarily bowler /wicketkeeper).

Once the ball is dead, it cannot be brought back into play until the bowler starts his run-up for the next ball.

Law 24 - No Ball

The first time a bowler comes on, and at the start of a new spell, the umpire should enquire as to his action (left/right arm, over/round the wicket). After this it is the bowler's responsibility to inform the umpire of any change, and the umpire's responsibility to inform the batsman.

The positioning of the feet for a legitimate delivery is mostly well known, but some points should be noted. Unlike for the batsman, it is legitimate for part of the front foot to be raised, as long as the heel overhangs the popping crease. It is also legal for the heel of the back foot to overhang the return crease, as long as the foot is not grounded on or over the line.

While "double bounces" are legitimate, any ball which bounces more than twice, or which rolls along the ground before reaching the batsman should be called no-ball.

It is usually better to avoid calling no ball for any apparent flaw in a bowling action that might give rise to suspicion of throwing, as it has been shown that the naked eye is not always reliable on this point. If there are genuine concerns about a bowler's action, ESCA should be notified, and can work with CricketScotland and a player's club to determine if any remedial action is necessary

In all circumstances, the 1-run penalty for a no-ball is added to any runs otherwise made off the delivery. The only common way of a dismissal off a no-ball being valid is Run out.

Law 25 - Wides

This is the Law that player-umpires may have more problems with than any others. The main point is that a consistent interpretation must be made throughout the match, and not altered based on the state of the match, or which side is batting.

The strict "one-day" wides interpretation is NOT appropriate for East League cricket. The criteria that must be used is that the batsman must have an opportunity to reach the ball and play a normal cricket shot at it. A batsman can "un-make" a wide by moving towards a ball that would otherwise have been out of reach, even if he subsequently misses or leaves it; but he cannot "make" a wide by backing away from a ball that, from a normal guard position, would have been in reach.

For an adult batsman of normal size, few balls on the off side passing within the return crease will be wides. On the leg side, while the reach of the batsman is more limited, a ball which passes close to the batsman's legs and goes down the leg side should not be called wide. From 2009, the SNCL is introducing "wide creases", similar to those used in professional cricket, as additional lines inside and parallel to the return creases. If these markings are visible for any East League or President's Trophy match, they must be ignored, as they are used for the strict interpretation of wides in the SNCL.

Where players are familiar with interpretations from watching televised cricket, the interpretation that should be used in the East League is that for Test matches, not any form of professional one-day cricket.

In all circumstances, the 1-run penalty for a wide is added to any other runs made off the delivery. The dismissals of Stumped and Hit Wicket are valid off a wide, as is Run out.

Law 26 - Bye/Leg Bye

This Law should cause few problems. Note that Byes can be run even when no stroke was played by the batsman, but for leg-byes to be valid, the batsman must have either tried to hit the ball, or have taken avoiding action to get out of its way. Even if the ball did not hit the batsman's leg(s) any runs scored off a deflection off the body should be scored as leg-byes.

Law 28 - The wicket is down

Providing full, matching, sets of stumps and bails are available, this Law should cause few problems. The only point to note is that, when a fielder breaks the wicket, he must do so with the hand or arm holding the ball. It is not sufficient to hold the ball in one hand, and remove the bails with the other. If one bail is off, removing the second bail is sufficient to put down the wicket - if both bails are off the fielding side may either replace one bail and remove it, of remove a stump with the hand or hands holding the ball. The umpire should never re-make the wicket while the ball is in play.

Law 32 - Caught

Many dismissals under this Law will be obvious and present no problems. However, there are some complexities to be aware of.

Any part of the glove on the batsman's hand holding the bat is regarded as an extension of the bat, and catches taken off the glove are valid.

If the ball is taken low to the ground, the fielder's word as to whether the catch was clean should usually be accepted by the batsman and umpires. The same applies to catches in the deep, when it cannot be seen clearly whether the fielder was within the boundary or not.

In the vast majority of circumstances, the batsman will know whether or not he has hit the ball. If he hits a ball which is then caught, the sporting batsman will not wait for the umpire's decision, but will "walk". It should be remembered that people play East League cricket primarily for enjoyment, and few things spoil a day more quickly than a batsman refusing to walk, and his team-mate/umpire refusing to give him out after an obvious catch.

Law 35 - Hit wicket

Note that the batsman is only out if he or his equipment breaks the wicket while playing at the ball or immediately after. If the batsman slips and breaks the wicket while turning for a second or subsequent run, he cannot be out hit wicket.

Law 36 - Leg Before Wicket

This is a straightforward Law which should not cause any problems.

Yeah Right...

Provided the delivery is a fair ball, and there is an appeal, four questions become relevant. All have Yes/No answers.

1. If the ball pitched, did it pitch in line with the stumps or outside off stump?

2. Was the first impact on the batsman's pad (or body)?

3. Did the ball hit the batsman in line with the stumps, or outside off stump if there was no attempt to hit the ball with the bat? (No shot played)

4. Was the ball going on to hit the stumps?

All four of the these questions must be answered "yes' if the batsman is to be given out LBW. The first three are factual, but the last one is very much the opinion of the umpire. If there is doubt in the umpire's mind he should give the batsman Not Out, but this should not be used as an excuse to answer all appeals in the negative.

Few issues in the East League cause more ill-feeling and bad spirit between teams than the impression, rightly or wrongly that a batsman has been spared from a plumb LBW decision by one of his team-mates umpiring. In the interest of a harmonious game of cricket, player-umpires should apply this Law properly, and not hesitate to give the batsman out if (and only if) they are satisfied that the conditions have been met.

Equally the fielding side should accept that none of their members are in an ideal position to judge an LBW decision - the bowler is off-line after his follow-through, and the wicket-keeper may not see any late deviation as the batsman is in the way. The only person in an ideal position to judge is the umpire, and his decision must be accepted without dissent.

Law 38 - Run Out

Most of the points of this Law are well known. Whenever the batsmen are running, it is the one who is nearer to the wicket that is broken who is out - if they are level the one who has left the wicket which is put down is out.

If both batsmen end up at the same end, the one who made his ground at that end first is safe, and the other one is out if the wicket is broken at the vacant end. If either batsman is in the ground at the end at which the wicket is broken, neither batsman is out.

If the fielding side feels that a batsman is backing up out of his ground before the ball is bowled, the bowler is entitled to attempt to run the batsman out, but only before entering the delivery stride. There is no requirement under the Laws for a warning to be given before attempting this type of dismissal, but it may be appropriate for a captain to be asked whether he wishes to withdraw an appeal of this type the first time it is made.

Law 41 - The fielder

No more than 2 fielders may be behind square on the leg side at the instant of delivery. The square leg umpire may need to move across to point, in order to check that a man slightly in front of square behind the umpire does not stray behind.

Fielders are not allowed to move sideways or backwards as the bowler is running in. The fielding captain can place his fielders where he wants, but the batsman is entitled to know where the fielders are before he faces.

There are no "fielding circles" or other restrictions in the East League, or President's Trophy competitions.

Law 42 - Fair and unfair play

This Law gives descriptions of several specific unfair acts, which are punished with the award of penalty runs. With the exception of an award for the ball hitting a fielder's helmet on the ground behind the wicket-keeper, penalty runs should not be awarded by player-umpires.

This does not give sides, or players, a licence to waste time, damage the pitch, tamper with the ball, or engage in any other unfair practice. Responsibility for ensuring that no unfair activity takes place lies primarily with the captain, who is responsible for his side playing within the Spirit, as well as the Laws of the game.

In terms of time wasting, a captain should take responsibility for aiming to bowl 50 overs within 3 hours. Captains should let bowlers know a couple of overs before they are needed to bowl, so that they can be loosened up, and ready. A couple of practice deliveries while the field is being set do no harm, but once the field is ready, the bowler should be ready to bowl. The Laws state that, under normal circumstances, the batsman should always be ready to face when the bowler is ready to bowl.

Captains should have the confidence in their own abilities to make any field changes that are necessary without convening mid-over committee meetings on the field.

On the majority of East League pitches, it is unlikely that short pitched bowling will cause significant problems. However, it should be remembered that any ball which, after pitching, passes above (not at) head height of the batsman standing upright should be called no-ball.

More common are high, full-pitched balls (beamers) which are both dangerous and unfair. Any ball, of any pace, which passes above (not at) the batsman's waist height while standing at the crease on the full should be called no-ball. The two umpires should work together in determining the height of the ball, and should bear in mind that the decision must be based on a batsman's waist when he is standing upright, rather than crouched over in batting stance. The height is to be judged at the crease, so it is possible for the batsman to advance down the pitch and be passed (or hit) by a ball that is above the waist, but would have dropped to waist height or below before reaching the crease. This delivery must not be called no-ball.

The position of the waist should also be remembered - it is NOT where the "waistband" of a player's trousers is. The waist is approximately halfway between a players hips and the bottom of the ribcage. The final call and signal of no-ball should be made by the umpire at the bowler's end.

Disciplinary issues

If there are any complaints about a side's conduct, which cannot be resolved by a discussion between the two captains, then the ESCA committee should be notified about them as soon as possible afterwards. There is no need to wait for the maximum amount of time permitted before making a complaint. While there is no wish to discourage clubs from pursuing genuine complaints, there is a significant administrative burden involved in investigating them and convening disciplinary hearings, and clubs are encouraged, where possible, to discuss the issue and see if it can be resolved on the day.

Clubs and players are reminded that the Code of Conduct applies even after games have finished - particularly the provision regarding "inappropriate comment on a match-related incident or official". The ESCA message board is provided as a service to clubs and players, but it should not be used for criticism of individuals or (particularly) umpiring decisions.

Youth Cricketers

While not mentioned in the Laws, this may be an appropriate place to say something about the treatment of young cricketers in the East League.

While young cricketers are strongly encouraged to play cricket wherever possible, it should be remembered that the East League is an adult League, with a competitive element to the play. There should be no compunction about bowling to young cricketers in the same manner that a team would bowl to an adult, and there is no element of poor sportsmanship in continuing to bowl quicker bowlers when a youngster is batting - if a club has selected a young cricketer to play for an adult team, it must be assumed that the youngster is capable of handling himself at the appropriate standard of play.

Captains are reminded of their responsibilities to ensure that young players in their team wear a helmet at all times when batting or keeping wicket, and also to ensure that the relevant limits on bowling spells of quicker bowlers are observed. These limits are mandatory, and should be observed as rigorously as the overall 10 (or fewer) overs per bowler limit.

Tom Rutherford

ESCA Hon Secretary

March 2009.