Buckinghamshire Short Mat Bowling Association

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The ESMBA rules state:


A jack is live and may be played by a live bowl if the jack is within the live area or if any portion of it is within the live area when it is breaking the ditch line.


Means that section of the rink mat between the dead line and the ditch, delineated by the inside edge of the half inch marking.

The inside edge of the half inch marking is that edge within the playing area.

Therefore, following the above ruling, a jack which is in the ditch and no part of it extends into the live area by crossing the inside edge, is a dead jack.



" A bowler's wood comes to rest close to the jack, but does not touch it. The next player gets on the mat and prepares to bowl their wood, but before they bowl, the previous wood falls over and touches the jack. The skip jumps on the mat and marks the wood as a toucher.

The player about to bowl calls out, "it's our mat, so you cannot claim that as a toucher"

Who is right. There doesn’t appear to be any specific ruling in the rules book apart from Section 6 (b) which doesn't cover this point.

We asked an umpire for his definitive ruling. This was his response:

“As long as the bowl from player A was legal i.e. no foot fault or was not bowled while any previous bowl was still in motion, it can be marked or nominated as a toucher. Possession of the rink mat is irrelevant.

Furthermore, the player at the head end should stop the following bowler from bowling if the bowl in the head is showing any sign of moving and if the following bowler does bowl before the preceeding bowl comes to rest it should be stopped and removed from the mat.

Finally the toucher must be marked or nominated before the following bowl comes to rest. Failure to do so renders it a non toucher.

If the bowl has stopped (and I mean really stopped and not moving extremely slowly) then I do not think it is a toucher if it subsequently falls and touches the jack. I say this because the players at the head end have agreed it is not moving and have allowed the next bowl to be played. If the first bowl were to fall as the next bowl approaches it could be deemed that the vibration in the mat caused the first bowl to fall”.

In Summary, provided the next bowler has NOT played a wood, and the previous bowl falls and touches the jack, the skip can either nominate or mark the toucher, before the next bowl is played.

Foot Faults

Whilst it is simple to play to the rules, it is amazing how many times players do have foot faults.

If you look at the diagram, the player, at the point of delivering their bowl, should always have one foot completely on or over the delivery mat and the other foot completely within the delivery area, not on the foot line or the ditch line, but also within an imaginary line adjoining the front ends of the delivery lines.

One common fault is, whilst having one foot correctly placed on the delivery mat, is to have the other foot breaking the ditch line at the side of the delivery mat.

Please note the delivery lines, the visible ditch line and the delivery mat lines do not form part of the blue delivery area. The total Delivery Area is just the delivery mat itself and the shaded blue area.

(click on this text to read the full section of the rules)

For clarification, the ESMBA rules states:  

“A player, at the moment of delivering the bowl, shall have the whole of one foot entirely within the confines of the delivery mat. The foot must be either in contact with or directly above the delivery mat. The other foot may be placed totally on the delivery mat or partially on the delivery mat and the delivery area or totally within the delivery area”.


If a bowl be delivered with such force as to pass or to cause another bowl to pass over the back or sides of the fender, the opposing skip shall have the option of

  1. Claiming three shots and counting the end as played
  2. Counting the end as an end played and claiming the shots lying
  3. Completing the end
  4. Playing the end anew as in a dead end  

If a bowl and the jack are driven over the back or sides of the fender at the same time, the rule concerning the jack will take precedence