The free-hit rule has benefited ODI and T20I cricket batters during the previous decade and a half.

The batting team receives a free hit whenever a bowler bowls a no-ball. The regulation was created to penalize the bowling side for bowling a no-ball and provide hitters the freedom to score freely on the following legal delivery, lowering their chances of sacrificing their wicket significantly. The free hit delivery comes immediately after the no-ball. As a result, the rule stays in effect till the bowler bowls the next valid delivery.

When was free hit introduced in cricket?

The "free hit" rule was introduced in cricket by the International Cricket Council (ICC) during the ICC World Twenty20 tournament in 2007. This innovative rule was implemented to penalize bowlers for delivering a no-ball and, simultaneously, to provide batting teams with an opportunity to score freely on the following legal delivery without the risk of dismissal, except in specific circumstances like run-outs, obstructing the field, or hitting the ball twice.

Initially, when the free hit rule was introduced, it was primarily associated with front-foot (overstepping) and rear-foot no-balls, emphasizing the need for bowlers to stay behind the crease while delivering the ball. However, in 2015, the ICC expanded the scope of the free hit rule to encompass all types of no-balls, including high full tosses and other illegal deliveries, in limited-overs cricket.

Since its introduction, the free-hit rule has significantly influenced the dynamics of limited-overs cricket, especially in One Day Internationals (ODIs) and Twenty20 (T20) matches. It has added excitement, strategy, and scoring opportunities while making bowlers more cautious about overstepping the crease. As a result, the rule has become an integral part of modern limited-overs cricket. It continues to shape the way the game is played at the international and domestic levels.

Free hit rules in cricket

The on-field umpires rule that the delivery following the no-ball is a free hit. The ICC rule book defines a no-ball as a front-foot or back-foot violation, a waist-high no-ball, switching the bowling side without alerting the umpire, and the ball hitting twice on the pitch, among other things.

A batter can only be removed on a free-hit delivery like a no-ball offering. When the free hit rule is in effect, the only removal modes for a batter are running out, hitting the ball twice, and blocking the field. The batter cannot be stumped if the free-hit ball is wide.

Conversely, the bowler can only switch bowling sides during the free-hit delivery.

Until there is a strike change, the opponent is not permitted to shift the field during a free hit delivery. If the same hitter who encountered the no-ball delivery is on strike, the limitation prohibits changing people within the same field. In the event of an unlawful field shift, the free hit is carried over to the next delivery.

However, suppose the umpire calls a no-ball for a fielding violation, such as having an additional fielder beyond the circle. In that case, the fielding switch is permitted regardless of the batter on strike.

As you may have guessed, the primary advantage for hitters on a free hit is that they cannot be eliminated by a catch, leg before wicket, or bowled. With the three typical modes of dismissal eliminated, batters can go for big hits without jeopardizing their wicket.

If the same batter strikes again, the fielding team must maintain the same field setup as the previous delivery, which is another significant advantage.

Significance in Different Formats

The significance of the "free hit" rule varies across different formats of cricket, including Test Matches, One Day Internationals (ODIs), and Twenty20 (T20) Matches. Here's a summary of its importance in each format:

  • Test Matches:

The free hit rule is not traditionally a part of Test cricket. Test matches prioritize the traditional aspects of the game, emphasizing skills like patience, technique, and strategy. Therefore, the free hit rule, which is more associated with limited-overs cricket, must be implemented in Test matches.

  • One Day Internationals (ODIs):

In ODIs, the free hit rule holds significant importance as it adds excitement and balance between bat and ball. A no-ball followed by a free hit allows the batting side to capitalize on the delivery without the risk of dismissal (except for run-outs and obstruction of the field). It incentivizes bowlers to avoid overstepping and helps maintain a competitive equilibrium.

  • Twenty20 (T20) Matches:

T20 cricket is known for its fast-paced, high-scoring nature. In this format, the free hit rule is particularly significant as it can drastically impact the outcome of a match. It rewards aggressive batting, making it challenging for bowlers to recover from no-balls. The rule contributes to the entertainment value of T20 cricket by allowing batters to target specific deliveries aggressively, ultimately increasing run-scoring opportunities.

In summary, the significance of the free-hit rule varies across cricket formats. While it is not a part of Test cricket, it plays a crucial role in enhancing the dynamics of limited-overs formats like ODIs and T20s, promoting exciting and competitive gameplay.

New free hit rule in cricket

As per the update in September 2021, there were no significant changes regarding a "free hit" rule in cricket. However, cricket regulations and rules can evolve, and there might have been updates or amendments since then.

The free hit rule, initially introduced in limited-overs formats, allows a batter to take a free hit at the delivery following a no-ball (an illegal delivery). During a free hit, the batter can only be dismissed through a run-out or obstruction of the field, and the bowler must deliver the ball as an overstepped no-ball.

Cricket's governing bodies, such as the International Cricket Council (ICC), periodically review and amend rules to enhance the game's fairness and excitement. Any recent changes to the free hit rule or other cricket regulations must be checked in the latest ICC or respective cricket board's rulebooks or websites for accurate and up-to-date information as of 2023. 


In the fast-paced world of T20 cricket, the free-hit rule is a game-changer. It empowers aggressive batting by allowing batters to target specific deliveries without fearing dismissal through conventional means like catches, leg before wicket, or bowling. This freedom to swing for the fences adds to the spectacle, making T20 cricket an edge-of-the-seat experience for fans worldwide.

However, the free hit rule remains conspicuously absent in Test cricket, where the focus is on traditional aspects of the game, like technique and patience. Here, the rule's absence preserves the sanctity of the longest format.

Looking ahead, the free-hit rule's role in modern cricket is likely to persist and evolve further. Its influence on limited-overs formats will continue to shape tactical decisions and strategies, emphasizing the importance of accurate bowling and disciplined fielding to avoid conceding unnecessary runs.

As the game continues to innovate and adapt to the demands of modern audiences, the free hit rule may find its way into other formats or undergo further refinements. Nevertheless, it will always be celebrated for injecting excitement, strategy, and thrilling moments into ODIs and T20s, making cricket more engaging and enjoyable for fans and players.

"Free hits" have become a defining feature of modern limited-overs cricket, fundamentally altering the game's dynamics. Introduced in 2007 during the ICC World T20, this rule has evolved to encompass all forms of no-balls, and its significance is undeniable in One Day Internationals (ODIs) and Twenty20 (T20) matches.

In ODIs, the free hit rule adds a layer of excitement and balance. A no-ball award allows the batting side to score freely on the following legal delivery, minimizing the risk of losing their wicket. It encourages bowlers to maintain discipline and heightens the competitive equilibrium between bat and ball.


  1. Is a no-ball a free hit in test cricket?

In Test cricket, the free-hit rule does not apply. 

  1. Is free hit given in test cricket?

The ICC implemented free hits in cricket in October 2007. Free hits have been allowed in ODI and T20I cricket but not in Tests.

  1. Can you be stumped off a free hit in cricket?

Only in the case of a free hit can the striker be expelled, like a no ball." In other words, a batter can only go out on a free hit by getting run out, blocking the field, or touching the ball twice.

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