Understanding the sign language of cricket

Disco move.. or cricket hand signal? It's sometimes hard to tell. Photo: Getty Images. 

Disco move.. or cricket hand signal? It's sometimes hard to tell. Photo: Getty Images. 

By G.S. Rogers

Those two men in white hats standing kind of still on a cricket oval, while players duck and weave around them – what are they doing, exactly? And what’s with all the odd hand gestures?

My formative years were spent immersed in cricket, at countless training sessions and weekend matches. Back then, I understood perfectly what the two fellows were doing – they were there to hold the players jumpers and hats for a spell. Cricket’s a game of politeness, right? – of course there’d be butlers on field.

Turns out there might be a bit more to it than that. Cricket umpires, as it happens, are there to officiate the game, and they do so with a sophisticated set of of semaphores (signs) that declare a decision, and officially inform all players (and the scorers) just what is happening on the field.

Here’s your pictorial guide to 12 of the most commonly seen gestures:

1.    Batter is OUT = one finger up.
Pretty self explanatory, if you're on the end of this hand signal it's bye, bye!

To put it simply this hand signal means... "you're out, goodbye, ciao, see ya." Photo: Getty Images. 

To put it simply this hand signal means... "you're out, goodbye, ciao, see ya." Photo: Getty Images. 

2.   Four = arm out in front of body, motion from side to side, much like waxing a surfboard.  
This signal happens when the ball hits the boundary, the batting team automatically scores four runs.

A cricket umpire signals a four with an out the front hand motion. Photo: Getty Images. 

A cricket umpire signals a four with an out the front hand motion. Photo: Getty Images. 

3.  Six = six runs on the scoreboard after one massive hit. 
It's when the ball has been hit high into the sky, sailed over the heads of the fielders, and landed beyond the boundary. Nice shot.

Two hands up in the air like you just don't care? Photo: Getty Images. 

Two hands up in the air like you just don't care? Photo: Getty Images. 

4.    Decision change = arms crossed, hands on shoulders. 
Interesting one this. It’s when the umpire originally thought the player was in our out, but reverses their decisions. 

One of the most famous umpires of the game Asad Rauf signals a change of heart! Photo: Getty Images. 

One of the most famous umpires of the game Asad Rauf signals a change of heart! Photo: Getty Images. 

5.    No ball = arm raised at shoulder height. 

An umpire can signal no ball for a loooooong list of reasons:

  • The bowler has overstepped the front line at the bowling end
  • The bowler’s back foot is behind the back line at the bowling end
  • The ball bounces more than twice before it reaches the bowler
  • The ball has stopped before it reaches the bowler
  • The bowler, before he lets go of the ball, has crossed the middle of the pitch (an imaginary line running between the two middle stumps at either end of the pitch)
  • The bowler changes her bowling style, or side of the wicket, from one ball to the next
  • The bowler bowls the ball underarm

That actually isn’t a complete list – but should give you an indication of what may have happened when you see that arm will shoot out. When a No Ball is declared, one run is awarded as an “Extra” to the batting team – ie, it’s not a run attributed to the batter.

6.    Wide = umpire has arms wide open. 
Ball was bowled to wide for the batter to hit it. 

It's a bird, its a plane... nope. It's just out. Photo: Getty Images. 

It's a bird, its a plane... nope. It's just out. Photo: Getty Images. 

7.    Bye = arm in the air, palm flat. 
Byes are runs that are scored when the batter doesn’t hit the ball and it isn’t fielded, so the batters run and score as many runs as they can. Again, these runs are scored as Extras – so not added to the batter’s score. Byes are often considered the fault or responsibility of wicket keepers, whose job it is to field a missed bowl.

Hi? No ....Bye. Photo: Getty Images. 

Hi? No ....Bye. Photo: Getty Images. 

8.   Leg bye = umpire raises knee and taps it. 
Leg bye. This is a doozy! Leg byes are scored when the bowled ball hits the batter but not on the bat or on a hand that’s holding the bat. If the ball then bounces off the batter’s body and is not fielded, the batters can run and score some more Extras. However, the umpire will only raise and tap his knee if he is convinced that the batter had tried to hit the ball with the bat and wasn’t deliberately putting his body in the path of the ball.

This umpire illustrates a leg bye, but also looks like he may be mildly enjoying some knee slap dancing. Photo: Getty Images. 

This umpire illustrates a leg bye, but also looks like he may be mildly enjoying some knee slap dancing. Photo: Getty Images. 

9.  Dead ball = Umpire crossing arms, palms in, in front of hips. 
The Dead Ball is also known as Seagull on Field. The umpire will declare a dead ball to signal that play has somehow been interrupted and the ball is no longer in play (so no-one can score runs or get out).
Seagulls like to be the centre of attention sometimes.

If you see this signal you can usually  guess that it's either a streaker or seagull that's causing some disturbance. Photo: Getty Images. 

If you see this signal you can usually  guess that it's either a streaker or seagull that's causing some disturbance. Photo: Getty Images. 

10. TV replay = umpire draws square in the air.
When an umpire is unsure of a decision, he’ll make this gesture to call for the third umpire – which is adjudication by tv. The play is re-played in slow motion and a determination is made on the decision the umpire is doubtful of.

Let's review that decision on the big box shall we! Photo: Getty Images. 

Let's review that decision on the big box shall we! Photo: Getty Images. 

11. Last hour =  umpire holds out wrist and taps watch.
Usually only seen in Test matches, this call is made when the play in the last hour of the day has commenced. This time differs state-wide and internationally, and will depend on the light of the season and the light on that day.

Is it time to go home yet? Photo: Sourced. 

Is it time to go home yet? Photo: Sourced. 

12. Two balls remaining  - two fingers up (like a peace sign)
It literally means there are two balls remaining for that over. It's become a habit for some umpires to use this signal to let the bowlers know. 

So… that’s a fair few matters those umpires have to keep their eyes peeled, and their fingers limber for. It’s a serious job, as it turns out. NOT glorified hat stands after all.

But a butler on ground, that’s not a terrible idea, surely…?