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After Bumrah no-ball, Dale Steyn suggests radical ‘free hit’ law change in Test cricket to protect tailenders

by Wisden Staff 15 minute read

Dale Steyn has prompted a discussion over whether the ‘free hit’ law should be introduced into Test cricket in order to protect tailenders.

The free-hit rule, currently in place in white-ball cricket, means that a batter cannot be dismissed on the delivery after a no-ball.

Following a Jasprit Bumrah no-ball to Duanne Olivier, a short ball, Steyn tweeted that awarding a free hit for a no ball in Test cricket “Will definitely help the bowlers (when batting) survive those extended 7/8 and sometimes 9 ball overs we’ve seen happen before…”

“6 balls is hard enough for the tailenders facing a top class life threatening fast bowler,” he continued.

Bumrah’s final ball of the over was blocked by Duanne Olivier, but his tendency to overstep when bowling at the tail has been noticed before. He bowled a 10-ball over to James Anderson during the Lord’s Test last summer, with calls at the time for the introduction of the free hit into Test cricket to deter from bowling a no-ball on purpose.

The laws of cricket bar bowlers from deliberately overstepping, with any bowler that does so banned from bowling for the rest of the innings. Law 41.8 covers ‘Bowling of a deliberate front-foot no ball’.

Steyn clarified his opinion in replies to those asking questions on Twitter. He insisted this wasn’t simply an ex-pro having gone soft after retiring. “Nothing has changed, I’m still one for being hard and coming hard, I’m just asking a question I heard by the commentators.”

He also conceded that the rule could lead to some strange situations. “I must say, imagine Steve Smith bowling a no ball last ball of Day 5 and Anderson leaving the next ball free hit to be clean bowled and not out to save a Test would be a little ridiculous”.

One alteration to the law suggested by others is to give the batting side the option of whether or not to face the extra delivery.

Steyn has previously criticised Bumrah this series, saying the India quick needed to “learn to take it” following a heated exchange with South Africa’s Marco Jansen. However, he made sure to praise Bumrah this time around, tweeting, “Serious Test Match happening here, well bowled Bumrah for the 5”.

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