Umpire (cricket)

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An umpire

In cricket, an umpire (from the Old French nompere meaning not a peer, i.e. not a member of one of the teams, impartial) is a person who has the authority to make decisions about events on the cricket field, according to the Laws of Cricket. Besides making decisions about legality of delivery, appeals for wickets and general conduct of the game in a legal manner, the umpire also keeps a record of the deliveries and announces the completion of an over.

A cricket umpire is not to be confused with the referee who usually presides only over international matches and makes no decisions affecting the outcome of the game.


Traditionally, cricket matches have two umpires on the field, one standing at the end where the bowler delivers the ball (Bowler's end), and one directly opposite the facing batsman (usually, but not always, at square leg). However, in the modern game, there may be more than two umpires; for example Test Matches have four: two on-field umpires, a third umpire who has access to video replays, and a fourth umpire who looks after the match balls, takes out the drinks for the on-field umpires/

The International Cricket Council (ICC) has three panels of umpires: namely the Elite Panel of Umpires, the larger International Panel of Umpires and the Development Panel of ICC Umpires. Most Test matches are controlled by neutral members of the Elite Panel, with local members of the International Panel providing support, usually in the third or fourth umpire roles. Members of the International Panel will occasionally officiate as neutral on-field umpires in Tests. Members of the three panels officiate in One Day International (ODI) and Twenty20 International (T20I) matches.[1]

Professional matches also have a match referee, who complements the role of the umpires. The match referee makes no decisions relevant to the outcome of the game, but instead enforces the ICC Cricket Code of Conduct, ensuring the game is played in a reputable manner. The ICC appoints a match referee from its Elite Panel of Referees to adjudicate Test matches and ODIs.

Minor cricket matches will often have trained umpires. The independent Association of Cricket Umpires and Scorers (ACU&S), formed in 1955, used to conduct umpire training within the UK. It however merged to form the ECB Association of Cricket Officials (ECB ACO) on 1 January 2008. A new structure of cricket umpiring and scoring qualifications has now been put into place and the ACO provides training and examinations for these.[2] Cricket Australia has introduced a two-tier accreditation scheme and eventually all umpires will be required to achieve the appropriate level of accreditation. The ages of umpires can vary enormously as some are former players, while others enter the cricketing world as umpires.

In accordance with the tradition of cricket, most ordinary, local games will have two umpires, one supplied by each side, who will fairly enforce the accepted rules.


The cricket umpire lever counter, an example of a device used by umpires to count the number of balls in an over

When a ball is being bowled, one umpire (the bowler's end umpire) stands behind the stumps at the non-striker's end (that is, the end from which the ball is being bowled), which gives him a view straight down the pitch.

The second (the striker's end umpire) takes the position that he feels gives him the best view of the play. Through long tradition, this is usually square leg – in line with the popping crease and a few yards to the batsman's leg side – hence he is sometimes known as the square leg umpire.

However, if a fielder takes up position at square leg or somewhere so as to block his view, or if there is an injured batsman with a runner, then the umpire must move somewhere else – typically either a short distance or to point on the opposite side of the batsman. If the square-leg umpire elects to stand at point, he is required to inform both the batsmen, the captain of the fielding team, and his colleague. He may also move to the point position later in the afternoon if the setting sun prevents a clear view of the popping crease at his end.

It is up to the umpires to keep out of the way of both the ball and the players. In particular, if the ball is hit and the players attempt a run, then the umpire behind the stumps will generally retreat to the side, in case the fielding side attempts a run out at that end.

At the end of each over, the two umpires will exchange roles. Because the bowlers end alternates between overs, this means they only move a short distance.

For certain decisions during a match, the on-field umpire may refer to the Third Umpire if there is one appointed, who has access to television replays. The Third Umpire is most often used in the case of run-outs, where the action is too fast for the naked eye but can be also used to decide the cases of disputed boundaries and catches, when the umpires cannot decide if the ball has struck the ground before being caught (but not to decide whether or not the ball in fact struck the bat or gloves of a batsman). Third Umpire referrals for LBW dismissals was trialled in the 2002 ICC Champions Trophy in Sri Lanka, and in the 2007 English Domestic Pro40 competition, and is now in widespread use in international matches.

Decisions and signals

During play, the umpire at the bowler's end makes the decisions, which he mainly indicates using arm signals. Some decisions must be instantaneous, whereas for others he may pause to think or discuss it with the square leg umpire, especially if the latter may have had a better view.

When the ball is in play

These decisions have an important effect on the play and are signalled straight away.


An umpire signalling the batsman as out

An umpire will not give a batsman out unless an appeal is made by the fielding side, though a batsman may walk if he knows himself to be out. This is nowadays rare, especially in Tests and first-class matches for contentious decisions; however, it is the norm for a batsman to walk when he is out bowled or out to an obvious catch. If the fielding side believes a batsman is out, the fielding side must appeal, by asking the umpire to provide a ruling.

The umpire's response is either to raise his index finger above his head to indicate that the batsman is out, or to clearly say "not out", which is usually accompanied with a shake of the head.[3] The 'out' signal is the only signal that, if indicated by the striker's end umpire, does not require confirmation by the bowler's end umpire.[4]


Either umpire may call, and signal, no-ball, for a ball that is illegally delivered (bowled), although each umpire has unique jurisdictions. The most usual causes for no-balls are foot faults or a ball passing above a batsman's waist without bouncing, each of these being under the bowler's end umpire's jurisdiction. The square-leg umpire will rarely have to call a no-ball, as his jurisdiction is limited to infringements that very rarely occur. The signal is to hold one arm out horizontally and shout "no-ball"; the idea being that the batsman is aware of the no-ball being bowled.[5] In matches under the auspices of the ICC, it may also be a no-ball if the umpire feels that the bowler's arm is bent more than 15 degrees (throwing rather than bowling). The ICC have chosen to amend Law 21.2 (Fair Delivery – the arm) as a result of controversy concerning the legality or otherwise of bowling actions of certain prominent bowlers.[who?] The no-ball doesn't count as one of the six in the over, and reduces the ways in which a batsman may be out (from 8 to 3), with all forms of dismissal credited to the bowler being removed.

Free hit

In certain forms of limited-overs cricket, such as T20s and ODIs, a no-ball that is the result of the bowler overstepping the crease or bowling above a batsman's waist will be penalised by the next delivery being subject to limited methods of dismissal. The umpire will signal this by circling a finger horizontally over his head, usually following a no-ball signal (and any other signals associated with the no-ball such as a boundary). During a free hit delivery, batsmen cannot be dismissed caught, bowled, leg before wicket or stumped.


A Wide Ball is an illegal delivery in cricket, due to it being "wide of the striker where he is standing and would also have passed wide of him standing in a normal guard position" (Law 22). A wide signalled by extending both arms out horizontally and is accompanied by a call of Wide Ball. It does not count in the over, and again reduces the way in which a batsman can be out (from 8 to 4; a player can be stumped off a wide). If a delivery satisfies the criteria for both a No Ball and a Wide, the call and penalty of No Ball will take precedence. Like with No Ball, a batsman may attempt to score runs off the delivery which will be assessed in addition to the penalty run as wides and extras.

Dead ball

If the ball is no longer considered in play it is a dead ball. An umpire will signal this by crossing and uncrossing his wrists below his waist with the call Dead Ball, if he is required to do so under certain Laws, and also may do it if he thinks it is necessary to inform the players.[6]

A similar signal is also used to indicate a "not out" from the Decision Review System. This is signalled by an umpire crossing his hands in a horizontal position in front and above his waist three times.[7]

Signals to scorers

It is important that the scorers note down the play accurately and therefore the appropriate signals will be made by the umpire when the ball is dead (see Law 2.13). In addition to the following, the umpire repeats signals of dead ball, wide, and no-ball to the scorers. Scorers are required to acknowledge the signals from umpires; and umpires are required to get an acknowledgement before allowing the match to proceed.


If a batsman scores four when he hits the ball across the boundary (not by actually running them), the umpire signals this by waving his arm back and forth in front of the chest. This signal varies a lot between umpires, from two short, restrained, waves finishing with the arm across the chest, to elaborate signals that resemble those of a conductor of an orchestra.[8] Whichever way the umpire signals a four he must, by law, finish with his arm across the chest (so as to avoid confusion about whether a No Ball was delivered as well).


A six scored by hitting the ball over the boundary is signalled by the umpire raising both hands above his head, often in a celebratory manner.[9] For a six to be scored, the ball must come off the bat, so it is impossible to have six byes for a ball crossing the boundary (without there being overthrows).


If runs are to be scored as byes, the umpire will hold up one open palm above the head.[10]

Leg bye

Leg byes are signalled by the umpire touching a raised knee.[11]

Short run

If one of the batsmen turns to complete runs after the first without grounding his person or equipment behind the popping crease, then a short run is signalled by the umpire tapping his near shoulder with his fingers and the short runs are not scored. If more than one run is short, the umpire will inform the scorers as to the number of runs scored.[12] There is also a case of deliberate short running, where the umpire will disallow all runs, although this is a rather rare occurrence.

Television replay

If the umpire is unsure of a "line decision" (that is, a run out or stumped decision) or if the umpire is unsure whether the ball is a four, a six, or neither, he may refer the matter to the Third Umpire. The umpires may additionally refer decisions to the Third Umpire regarding Bump Balls and catches being taken cleanly (but only after the on-field umpires have consulted and both were unsighted). The Third Umpire is not used except in international or important domestic matches. The signal to refer a matter is using both hands to mime a TV screen by making a box shape.[13]

Penalty runs

For extreme misconduct by one team, the umpire may award five penalty runs to the other team. Placing one arm on the opposite shoulder indicates that the penalty runs are awarded to the fielding team, but if the umpire taps that shoulder, the penalties are awarded to the batting team.[14]

Five penalty runs are more commonly awarded when the ball strikes a foreign object on the field, usually a helmet of the fielding side.

Last hour

In Test cricket and first-class cricket, the last hour of the last day of play has special significance. First, there is a minimum number of overs (20 in the Laws of Cricket, fifteen in Tests) that must be bowled in the last hour. Second, and more importantly, a result must be reached before the time elapses and the umpire calls "stumps" for the match to have a winner; otherwise, the match ends with a draw and no winner. The umpire signals the last hour by pointing to his wrist (and the watch on it), which is raised above his head.[15]

Revoke last signal

If the umpire makes an incorrect signal, he may revoke it. To do so, he crosses his arms across his chest, then makes the corrected signal. A revocation may be made if the umpire discovers an incorrect application of the laws, such as, signalling "out" before realising that the other umpire signalled a no-ball. Also, an umpire may revoke if he accidentally signals a four though he intended to signal six. [16] With the implementation of the Decision Review System, a signal may also be revoked if the Third Umpire reports that his review supports reversing the call.

New Ball

In matches lasting more than two days the captain usually has the option of taking another new ball after a set number of overs (usually 80) have taken place since a new ball was introduced (an innings always begins with a new ball). The umpire at the bowler's end signals to the scorers that a new ball has been taken by holding the ball above his head. The scorers note the time that the new ball has been taken.

If the ball is damaged to the extent that it gives either team a disadvantage, it is replaced with a used undamaged ball in similar condition. A similar-condition used ball is also used if the ball is ever lost in the course of play (for example, if a ball hit for six becomes irretrievable).

In 2007 the International Cricket Council (ICC) brought in a new law stipulating that, in ODIs, after 35 overs have been bowled the ball must be replaced with a clean used ball.[17] In 2011 this rule was changed so that a different ball is used at each end, thus each ball getting used for 25 overs. The balls used in ODIs are white and become discoloured very easily, especially on dusty or abrasive pitches, and thus the ball change is deemed necessary to ensure that the ball is easily visible.

Challenge System

At the end of 2008, the ICC began trialling a challenge system in International Matches. This works as follows; When a decision has been made by the on-field umpire (either out or not-out), then either the batsmen or fielding player (depending on which way the decision went), can decide to refer the decision to the Third Umpire. This is signalled by making a "T" symbol with the arms. The Third Umpire can then use only basic technology to judge whether there is any reason to overrule the on-field umpires decision. If the Third Umpire decides that the on-field umpire made an incorrect decision then he will inform the on-field umpire, via headsets, of what he has seen and tell him to either change his decision or to stay with his original decision. This system is normally only used for LBW (to determine if the delivery meets all the LBW criteria) or close catch decisions (to determine if the ball had made contact with the bat or gloves and thus been "hit" and that the ball was caught cleanly).

Like the similar system used in tennis, each team gets a set number of challenges per innings (currently two per innings in Test cricket, one in ODI). If the challenge results in a reversed call, or an LBW is adjudged Umpire's Call(the decision is within a margin of error), the team keeps the challenge; a challenge is therefore only deducted when a call is upheld.

This system was introduced gradually: first in Test cricket, then at the 2011 World Cup 2011, and now in general for One Day Internationals.

Power Play

ICC introduced a system of Powerplays in limited-over cricket which restricts the number of fielders outside the 30-yard circle, among other things. When a Powerplay is beginning, the umpire moves his hand in circular fashion above his head. In ODIs the first 10 overs of an innings are automatically a Powerplay, and after 10 overs Powerplay 2 is started. From overs 11 to 40 a maximum 4 fielders can be placed outside the 30 yard circle. After 40 overs the 3rd Powerplay is started in which maximum 5 fielders should be placed by fielding team it ends till from 40 overs to 50 over. In Twenty20, a Powerplay is in effect for the first six overs of an innings, whereby only 2 fielders can be outside the fielding circle. For the rest of the innings, 5 fielders can be placed outside the circle.


The Golden Bails Award is given by the International Cricket Council (ICC) to umpires who have officiated (in cricket terms, stood) in 100 Test matches.[18][19][20][21]

Most Test matches as an umpire:[22]

Umpire Period Matches
Jamaica Steve Bucknor 1989–2009 128
Pakistan Aleem Dar 2003– 117
South Africa Rudi Koertzen 1992–2010 108

The Silver Bails Award is awarded to Umpires who have officiated in 200 One Day Internationals. Two umpires have reached this milestone, Rudi Koertzen and Billy Bowden.

The Bronze Bails Award is given by the ICC to umpires who have officiated in 100 One Day Internationals.[18][19][23]

Most ODI matches as an umpire:[24]

Umpire Period Matches
South Africa Rudi Koertzen 1992–2010 209
New Zealand Billy Bowden 1995–2016 200
Pakistan Aleem Dar 2000– 189

Most T20I matches as an umpire:[25]

Umpire Period Matches
Pakistan Aleem Dar 2009– 42
Australia Simon Taufel 2007–2012 34
Pakistan Asad Rauf 2006–2013 23


The predecessor of umpire came from the Old French nonper (from non, "not" and per, "equal"), meaning "one who is requested to act as arbiter of a dispute between two people", or that the arbiter is not paired with anyone in the dispute.

In Middle English, the earliest form of this shows up as noumper around 1350, and the earliest version without the n shows up as owmpere, a variant spelling in Middle English, circa 1440. The n was lost after it was written (in 1426–1427) as a noounpier with the a being the indefinite article. The leading n became attached to the article, changing it to an Oumper around 1475; this sort of linguistic shift is called false splitting. Thus today one says "an umpire" instead of "a numpire".

The word was applied to the officials of many sports, including association football (where it has been superseded by referee) and baseball (which still uses it).

See also


  • For a comprehensive guide to the laws and their interpretation, and for advice on umpires' field-craft and general technique: Tom Smith's Cricket Umpiring and Scoring (Marylebone Cricket Club). ISBN 978-0-297-86641-1
  • Surya Prakash Chaturvedi, Cricket Umpires, National Book Trust, 2012


  1. ^ "Match officials". International Cricket Council. Retrieved 8 December 2017.
  2. ^ ECB ACO Archived 16 March 2015 at the Wayback Machine. Education – find a course
  3. ^ "The umpire's signals". 2004-06-29. Retrieved 2018-06-02.
  4. ^ "The laws of cricket, Law 3 (see 3.14.a.ii)". Retrieved 16 June 2013.
  5. ^ BBC Sport
  6. ^ "Dead ball". 2004-06-29. Retrieved 2018-06-02.
  7. ^ "ICC Standard One Day International Match Playing Conditions (see Appendix 7 3.4.b)" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 16 June 2013.
  8. ^ "Four". 2004-06-29. Retrieved 2018-06-02.
  9. ^ "Six". 2004-06-29. Retrieved 2018-06-02.
  10. ^ "Bye". 2004-06-29. Retrieved 2018-06-02.
  11. ^ "Leg bye". 2004-06-29. Retrieved 2018-06-02.
  12. ^ "One short". 2004-06-29. Retrieved 2018-06-02.
  13. ^ "TV replay". 2004-06-29. Retrieved 2018-06-02.
  14. ^ "Penalty runs". 2004-06-29. Retrieved 2018-06-02.
  15. ^ "Last hour". 2004-06-29. Retrieved 2018-06-02.
  16. ^ "Cancel call". 2004-06-29. Retrieved 2018-06-02.
  17. ^ "ODI rule modifications could get early start". Cricinfo. Retrieved 2018-06-02.
  18. ^ a b "Golden bails for Bucknor". 2005-02-22. Retrieved 2009-06-13.
  19. ^ a b "Bucknor set to be first umpire to 100 Tests". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 2005-02-23. Retrieved 2009-06-13.
  20. ^ "Bucknor to receive golden bails for 100th Test". Cricinfo. 22 Feb 2005. Retrieved 9 February 2010.
  21. ^ "Bucknor and Others Honoured with Special Awards". West Indies Cricket Board. 10 July 2004. Retrieved 9 February 2010.
  22. ^ "Most matches as an umpire: Test". Cricinfo. Retrieved 7 May 2014.
  23. ^ "Emirates Elite Panel Umpires Honoured with Commemorative Awards". 2004-07-10. Retrieved 2009-06-13.
  24. ^ "Most matches as an umpire: ODI". Cricinfo. Retrieved 7 May 2014.
  25. ^ "Most matches as an umpire: T20I". Cricinfo. Retrieved 7 June 2012.

External links

  • ICC Match officials
  • ECB Association of Cricket Officials
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