Resolving Wrong Ball Plays
The wrong-ball rule (Rule 10) has historically created more confusion than any other rule. It has been re-organised and simplified in the 6th Edition with the intention of improving its clarity and ease of use.
The special treatment of wrong balls in the first four turns has been deleted apart from the exchange of colours case.
The obligation to forestall play if it is observed that a wrong ball has been played in the last stroke has been reinforced in Rule 10.2.2 by reference to Rule 16.2.9. This makes it a form of unacceptable behaviour to deliberately refuse to forestall play and play a stroke instead. This can lead to the stroke being annulled.
There are now just three classes of wrong ball set out in Rules 10.3 to 10.5. Two of these are less common and one, where the striker's side plays out of sequence or plays an opponent ball, is the most common. Rule 10 provides a checklist so that the referee or player can first determine whether Rule 10.3 applies, then Rule 10.4 and, finally, Rule 10.5. The majority of cases will fall under Rule 10.5.
Under Rule 10.5.2 if the striker's side played the partner ball, the non-offending side chooses whether to apply Replace and Replay or Ball Swap.
- If Replace and Replay is chosen, all balls moved in the last stroke are put back, any points scored in the last stroke are cancelled and the striker plays the ball that should have been played in the last stroke.
- If Ball Swap is chosen, all balls moved in the last stroke are left where they stopped except that the positions of the ball played in the last stroke and its partner ball are swapped, any points scored in the last stroke are counted, and the non-offending side plays the ball that follows the ball that should have been played in the last stroke.
If the striker's side played an opponent ball (Rule 10.5.3) or the striker's partner played the striker's ball (Rule 10.5.4) Replace and Replay applies.
Rule 10.6 deals with the status of earlier strokes and points in all types of wrong ball and Rule 10.7 provides guidance when it is discovered that a fault has been committed in a stroke in which a wrong ball has been played.
The case where one side plays successive strokes is now covered by Rule 10.3 which deals with the wider error of playing when not entitled.
Appendix 4 of the Rule Book provides a table as an easy-to-use on-court tool. The user should start at the top and read downwards until the appropriate row is reached (which will almost always be one of the last three rows).