In the game of cricket, bowling is the action of propelling the ball. It is performed with a straight arm over the shoulder. At the point of releasing the ball from the hand, the elbow should remain rigid. Any bending or major flexing of the arm at the time of release would be determined by the umpire to be an illegal delivery.
In ancient cricketing history underarm bowling was the only method employed. Initially, all bowling was performed with an underarm action. Later, an English woman, who used to play cricket alongside the gentlemen and whom was attired in the dress of the day for a lady, a long, widely blousing dress, was having difficulty in bowling with an underarm action due to the blousing dress and to counter this, she began to bowl with an overarm delivery method.
Soon after, a gentleman who witnessed this action began to employ it in club cricket matches, however, the overarm method was quickly banned and determined to be illegal. It was not until many years later the method was finally accepted by cricketing authorities and grew rapidly in popularity amongst all players. By the 20th century, underarm bowling had disappeared from the game.
An infamous "underarm bowling" incident occurred during a one-day match between the Australia and New Zealand teams, in which the bowler took advantage of the fact that underarm bowling had not been officially banned by rolling the ball along the ground. By doing so he avoided the (unlikely) possibility that the No. 11 New Zealand batsman would score 6 from the last ball to tie the match.
As a result of this incident, underarm bowling was subsequently banned and found not to be within the spirit of the game.
When a ball is bowled illegally, it is known as a "no ball." A "no ball" must be rebowled, and the batsman are awarded one penalty run plus whatever runs they otherwise scored of the no-ball. A no ball occurs when the bowler:
- changes the arm with which he bowls without notifying the umpire
- changes the side of the stumps from which he bowls without notifying the umpire
- bowls underarm
- throws, rather than bowls, the ball
- throws or bowls the ball before actually entering the "delivery stride"
- bowls with the back foot touching or outside the "return crease" (the lines on either side of the stumps)
- bowls with the front foot wholly in front of the "popping crease" (the line in front of the stumps)
- bowls a ball that rolls or bounces more than twice before reaching the opposite popping crease
- bowls a ball that comes to rest before reaching the opposite popping crease
- bowls a ball, and the wicket-keeper comes in front of the stumps at the opposite end before the ball passes those stumps or touches the batsman or his bat
- bowls a ball, and any part of a fielder's anatomy touches or passes over the pitch before the ball passes those stumps or touches the batsman or his bat (this restriction does not apply to the bowler himself)
- bowls a ball, and at the instant of delivery, there are more than two fielders, excluding the wicket-keeper, behind the opposite popping crease and on the "on side" (left side for a right-handed batsman, right side for a left-handed batsman). (See Bodyline for an explanation)
- bowls a ball that is physically dangerous to the batsman
- bowls a ball that does not bounce and passes over the batsman's waist
- (In Test Matches) bowls, for the third or subsequent time in a single over, a ball that passes over the batsman's shoulder
- (In One-Day Matches) bowls, for the second or subsequent time in a single over, a ball that passes over the batsman's shoulder
- (In One-Day Matches) bowls a ball, and at the instant of delivery, there are more than five fielders in the "on side" (left side for a right-handed batsman, right side for a left-handed batsman).
- (In One-Day Matches) bowls a ball during the first fifteen overs, and at the instant of delivery, there are more than two fielders in the outfield as demarcated by "dots" marked on the field.