Practice Design

Why do fast bowlers bowl “no-balls” at training but not in a game?

Every cricket player and coach has at some stage asked a fast bowler to “stop bowling no-balls”. A no-ball in cricket refers to an illegal delivery whereby the bowler oversteps the crease line. It is the equivalent of a long-jumper overstepping the line.

For some reason, fast-bowlers regularly bowl no-balls at training, but far less so in a match. Why is this so?

One possible reason is the presence (or absence) of an umpire. Typically, in training, there is no umpire, whereas in a match the umpire stands approximately 2 metres behind the crease.

Daniel Greenwood, Keith Davids & Ian Renshaw conducted a study that aimed to identify if the umpire is a key information source that fast bowlers use to regulate their run-up.

The Study

10 elite cricketers (international representatives, full-time professionals, and/or members of elite state & national junior squads) participated in the study. All participants were highly skilled medium-fast bowlers.

Participants bowled 4 overs during simulated match-play in training (i.e., centre-wicket practice) – 2 overs included an umpire while the other 2 overs did not include an umpire.

Participants foot landing location for every step of the run-up was assessed for every delivery.


When there was an umpire present:

  • Participants foot landing location was less variable.
  • Participants made fewer adjustments to their run-up, particularly during the final step before jumping into the bowling action.

This suggests that the umpire is an information source that helps regulate the run-up.

Practical Implications

If a fast-bowler is consistently bowling no-balls at training, consider asking someone (e.g., another player or a coach) to stand where an umpire is typically positioned in a match.

Of course, this might not be be the solution for every bowler, as there might be other information sources that help regulate the run-up (e.g., position of mats and nets, clarity of the crease lines, etc.).  Coaches should explore manipulating these information sources as a means to identify what regulates a bowler’s run-up during training.


Greenwood, D., Davids, K., & Renshaw, I. (2016). The role of a vertical reference point in changing gait regulation in cricket run-ups. European journal of sport science16(7), 794-800.

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