Illegal fielding

In a recent test match, a fielder chased the ball to the boundary and as he went to pick up the ball, his cap fell off his head and touched the ball. The fielder picked up the ball and returned it to the wicket-keeper and play continued. Was it an example of illegal fielding?

A fielder may use only his person to field the ball and the Laws do not permit him to use his clothing or any equipment.
If the fielder's cap has accidently fallen off his head, that is, he did not help it in any way, no penalty runs are awarded and a report is not made. The act needs to be regarded by the umpires as 'wilful' or 'deliberate'.

For example, if a fielder were to put on a glove that had been discarded by his wicket-keeper, and then touch the ball with this gloved hand, with the ball still in play, he would be guilty of 'illegal fielding'. Should 'illegal fielding' occur, the ball is 'dead' and an immediate 5 run penalty is awarded to the batting side.

If the ball lodges accidentally in a fielder`s clothing, this is not a breach of the Law. Indeed there are several recorded instances of a fair catch having been taken, when the ball has become entrapped inside a partly unbuttoned fielder`s shirt.

The most common instance of 'illegal fielding' occurs when the fielding side has brought a protective helmet on to the field. When it is not being worn, it may be placed on the ground behind the wicket keeper in line with the stumps. If the ball, in play, then touches this helmet (or indeed any item deliberately discarded by a member of the fielding side), the ball becomes 'dead' and the 5 run penalty is awarded.

Read more about Law 28 (The fielder) at the MCC website