In cricket, from the moment the ball is released from the bowler’s hand the ball is said to be in play or is live. The ball becomes dead, when an event (run scoring, dot ball or wicket-taking) has finished on that delivery. Any hindrance made by a batter when the ball is live and in middle of an event, results in the batter being declared out for “obstructing the field.”
Under the Law 37.1 of the MCC’s Laws of Cricket, obstructing the field comes in play by word or action of the batter. Under Law 37.4, a batter is declared obstructing the field even if he or she returns the ball (in play) to the fielder without his or her consent. For this, the batter may use his bat or any other part of the body and is declared obstructing the field if it is done without the consent of the fielder.
During the 2018 U-19 World Cup, a South African batter defended a ball that was rolling towards the stumps. Despite the ball being slowed down, the batter stopped it with his bat, took the ball and returned it to the keeper. The on-field umpires consulted each other and it was eventually decided that the batter is out for obstructing the field as he did not take the consent of the keeper to whom he was returning the ball.
The manner in which the batter was dismissed is now categorised under “handling the ball”.