Leg Before Wicket (LBW) is a method of dismissal in cricket, where a batsman is given out if the ball, bowled by the bowler, would have hit the stumps but was intercepted by any part of the batsman’s body (usually the leg), and the batsman did not attempt to hit the ball with the bat.

The umpire considers factors such as the ball’s trajectory, point of impact on the batsman, and whether the ball pitched in line with the stumps. LBW is crucial to maintain fairness in the game and prevents batsmen from blocking the ball with their bodies.

How LBW has changed over the years

The LBW law has evolved since its introduction in the 18th century to accommodate the changing nature of the game. One of the earliest versions of the LBW law stated that the ball must pitch straight to be considered for an LBW dismissal. This led to numerous challenges, as it was difficult for umpires to judge the exact line of the ball.

In 1937, the law was revised to include the “off-side rule,” which stated that the ball must pitch outside the off stump for a batsman playing a stroke, and in line or on the off side for a batsman not playing a stroke. This change aimed to encourage batsmen to play strokes and deter negative play.

The modern LBW law came into effect in 1980 when the International Cricket Council (ICC) redefined the rules to include the “point of impact” and “wicket-to-wicket” criteria. The current LBW law states that the ball must pitch in line with the stumps or outside the off stump, and if the batsman is not attempting a stroke, it must hit the batsman in line with the stumps. If the batsman is attempting a stroke, the point of impact can be outside the off stump.

Technological advancements have also played a significant role in the evolution of LBW decisions. The introduction of technologies such as Hawk-Eye, Hot Spot, and the Decision Review System (DRS) have helped umpires make more accurate LBW decisions.

The Official LBW Law

36.1 Out LBW

The striker is out LBW if all the circumstances set out in 36.1.1 to 36.1.5 apply.

36.1.1 The bowler delivers a ball, not being a No ball

36.1.2 the ball, if it is not intercepted full-pitch, pitches in line between wicket and wicket or on the off side of the striker’s wicket

36.1.3 the ball not having previously touched his/her bat, the striker intercepts the ball, either full-pitch or after pitching, with any part of his/her person

36.1.4 the point of impact, even if above the level of the bails,

either   is between wicket and wicket

or        if the striker has made no genuine attempt to play the ball with the bat, is between wicket and wicket or outside the line of the off stump.

36.1.5 but for the interception, the ball would have hit the wicket.

36.2 Interception of the ball

36.2.1 In assessing points in 36.1.3, 36.1.4 and 36.1.5, only the first interception is to be considered.

36.2.2 In assessing point 36.1.3, if the ball makes contact with the striker’s person and bat simultaneously, this shall be considered as the ball having first touched the bat.

36.2.3 In assessing point 36.1.5, it is to be assumed that the path of the ball before interception would have continued after interception, irrespective of whether the ball might have pitched subsequently or not.

36.3 Off side of wicket

The off side of the striker’s wicket shall be determined by the striker’s batting position at the moment the ball comes into play for that delivery.