IT is commonplace for fielders to put an unused protective helmet on the ground directly behind the wicketkeeper and in line with both sets of stumps.
Umpires may hold onto caps and sweaters but not helmets. A batter who decided to not use a helmet has to have it taken off the field
What happens if the ball hits the helmet placed on the ground? It becomes dead so play technically stops.
However, any runs scored before the ball hits the helmet, including the run-in progress if the batters had crossed at the time the ball hit it, will be awarded as well as five penalty runs.
If a wide or no-ball has been called these extras will be added to the score. Byes and leg byes can be scored, rather than runs from the bat, however if the batter deliberately padded up to the ball, in which it would then be an illegal bye, and it goes onto to hit the helmet then no runs will be scored other than the five penalty runs or no-ball if applicable – and the batters would be returned to their original ends.
The same applies if the ball has been deliberately hit twice. No runs can be scored even if the ball goes onto hit the helmet.
It doesn’t happen very often but I have seen a ball thrown in from the outfield and hit the helmet on its way to the wicketkeeper. I have certainly seen some near misses and on one occasion couldn’t work out why the ball suddenly went at right angles behind the keeper. My colleague was able to tell me the ball had hit the helmet as the keeper had missed it.
The award of five penalty runs for hitting a helmet placed on the ground is the only time when penalty runs don’t qualify for an umpire’s report to be sent in. All other cases of penalty runs have to be reported.
If a fielder had discarded his helmet while chasing the ball and the return throw subsequently hit the helmet then it would be a reportable offence as the helmet wasn’t placed on the ground originally – the fielder had deliberately taken it off.