Index

Penalty runs

For many years the Laws have mandated that umpires should award Penalty runs for No balls, Wides and more unusual events like batsmen stealing a run. The latest - 2000 Code - of Laws increased the range of penalties significantly to discourage what is often called gamesmanship, the attempt to gain unfair advantage by such means as time wasting, pitch damage and ball tampering.

In 2003, when the Laws were re-issued, the opportunity was taken to stiffen some of the penalties a little more. The success of this initiative can be seen not in the number of times penalties are imposed - they are indeed rare, but in the fact that they act as a deterrent.
Penalty runs should be given for the following offences:
No ball - 1 run in addition to any others scored
Wide - 1 run in addition to any others scored
Changing the condition of the ball - commonly called ball tampering - 5 runs
Deliberate attempt to distract the striker when receiving ball - 5 runs for a second offence
Deliberate distraction or obstruction of either batsman after ball has been received - 5 runs
Time wasting by fielding side during an over - 5 runs for a second offence
Time wasting by batting side - 5 runs for a second offence
Pitch damage by fielding side - 5 runs for a second offence
Pitch damage by batting side - 5 runs for a second offence
Batsmen unfairly stealing a run during bowler's run up - 5 runs
Player returning to the field of play without permission and coming into contact with the ball - 5 runs
Illegal fielding - 5 runs
Short runs - when deliberate - 5 runs for a second offence
In many of these examples there are other sanctions to be applied in addition to the Penalty runs. Some offences have an escalating level of punishment, mostly in two stages, but in one case in three stages. All offences that have multi-stage penalties are 'team' offences, which is to say that it can be a different team member who commits the second, third, etc. offence. Naturally, once the maximum penalty level has been reached, it applies to all subsequent occurrences in the same innings. Penalty runs are far from being a recent innovation. The history shows that they were being applied over 260 years ago and that 175 years ago the Laws of Cricket identified at least four types of penalty offence.
1744 - Penalty of one 'notch' if a member of the fielding side obstructed a batsman as he was attempting a run. The No ball did exist at this time, but did not carry a penalty - the ball was probably considered dead, though the term Dead ball was 50 years away, and the MCC more than 40 years away.
1798 - Penalty of 5 runs if a fielder stopped the ball with his hat! This may have been in response to the fact that it was fashionable to wear a top hat when playing cricket.
1811 - Penalty of one run for a Wide, scored as a Bye until 1820, then as a Wide. This was the first mention of Wides in the Laws.
1829 - Penalty of one run for a No ball was finally introduced 85 years after No balls were themselves first officially recognised.