What is leg before wicket in cricket? LBW explained

Cricket as a sport has some complex rules which are not too straightforward to comprehend. One such rule to get wickets which has always had divided opinions due to the number of variables involved in its process is the LBW rule in cricket.

In this article, we will discuss in detail what leg before wicket in cricket means, diving into the meaning of LBW in cricket and much more.

What is LBW meaning in cricket 

The LBW mode of dismissal comes into the picture if the ball struck either the front or the back leg directly without making any contact with the bat. A batter is given out if the leg is assumed to have blocked the way of the ball which would have otherwise gone on to hit the stumps. However, there are multiple variables that govern if a batter is liable to be given LBW out or not.

When is a player out LBW?

A player can be out LBW only when the bowler bowls a fair delivery and not a no ball and many factors will come into play once it is confirmed he bowled a fair ball:

  • Impact: This refers to the point where the ball hits on the pad and not the body. In order to be ruled LBW out, the impact of the ball must be in line with the stumps. This helps the umpire to identify whether the batter was in front of the wicket or not.
  • Pitching of the ball: If the ball is pitched in line of the three stumps or outside the off-stump, only then the batter becomes a candidate of the LBW dismissal.
  • Hitting: The ball should be hitting the stumps as per the hawk-eye. If the ball is missing the stumps, then no batter can be given out LBW. However, the complexity of the ball hitting the stumps also involves the extensive use of the umpire's call in cricket.

leg before wicket in cricket

Exceptions to leg before wicket in cricket

Interception of the ball

The batsman is out LBW if the ball pitches in line with the stumps or on the leg side of the wicket and strikes the batsman's body or bat before it reaches the wicket. The batsman is said to be intercepting the ball, unless one of the following conditions applies:

  • The batsman would have been struck outside the line of off stump if he had not moved his body or bat in the way of the ball
  • The ball was pitched outside the leg stump
  • The batsman was attempting to play the ball with his bat and the ball struck his body in front of the wicket
  • The ball struck the batsman's arm and the batsman was not attempting to play the ball with his bat

Off side of wicket

The second condition is the leg side of wicket condition (left side of right handed batsman). It means that the batsman is not out leg before wicket in cricket if the ball pitches outside the leg stump. 

Attempting to play the ball condition

 It means that the batsman is not out LBW if he was attempting to play the ball with his bat and the ball struck his body in front of the wicket.

Arm condition

It means that the batsman is not out LBW if the ball struck his arm and he was not attempting to play the ball with his bat.

The role of DRS in LBW

Cricket has grown enormously in the last decade in terms of the usage of technology in the game. The crucial leg before wicket in cricket calls are also decided using the DRS (Decision Review System). DRS has been a huge contributor in taking the howlers out of the game. While an umpire is likely to make mistakes, the LBW decisions that require spontaneous decision-making could result in a wrong call. In order to avoid any wrong decision being made, DRS proves to be of great advantage in cricket.

What does LBW mean in cricket – Evolution of rules over the years

During the first few decades into cricket, there was no rule that would define a batter out when attempted to obstruct the ball using the pads. However, when this became a normal practice, the basics of leg before wicket in cricket rules were introduced into the game. The batter was given out when the delivery would struck the pad in front of the wickets.

However, many criticized this approach as it was difficult for the Umpires to decide whether the batter was deliberately stopping the ball with his pad or not. Therefore, In 1788, there was not a need for the Umpires to take notice of the intent of the batter. The batter would be given out if the ball strikes his leg and pitched up straight.

Between 1900-1930, the bowlers were frustrated by the batsman who would not even attempt to play a shot or just kick away the ball by their leg which pitched outside off. Many players and Umpires approached MCC and requested a further modification of the laws to make the games more entertaining.

From 1950-1970, the batsman started to defend leg-spin bowling by offering no shot on turning pitch and many critics sighted this as unfair. Therefore, in the 1969-70 season, A new law was introduced in West Indies and Australia that “if the batter does not genuinely offer a shot, is struck by the delivery on the body and if the ball is going to hit the stumps pitching in line or outside of the impact would not be into consideration and the batter would be given out by the On-field Umpire”.

This new addition to laws forced the batsmen to play rather than offering no shot.

Watch a video to understand what does LBW mean in cricket: