Foul & a Miss? Free Ball??
If a ball on may be struck at either or both of its extreme edges by the cue-ball travelling in a straight line, when penalty points are not required to win or tie the frame by either player, then it is almost always the obligation of any referee to call a miss. There could be some very rare exceptions to this depending on the skill of the player, or lack thereof, in combination with a stroke of extreme difficulty, but in general terms the first statement holds true.
The key words in the statement are ‘straight line’. Section 2 of the rule book, Definitions, Rule 17 e) states: The cue-ball cannot be snookered by a cushion. The cue ball in the situation described below would obviously not have a straight line path to a ball on so why then is the statement included in the rules?
If the cue-ball ends up in the jaws of a pocket with all balls on obstructed by the cushions that form the opening to the pocket, such that the striker’s only choice is to play an indirect stroke, the referee is then free from the obligation to call a miss should a ball on not be struck. A miss may still be called if the referee is of the opinion that the effort to strike such a ball is below expectations, but the obligation is removed.
If it should happen that the cue-ball ends up in such a position because of a foul stroke and the cue-ball is then obstructed from any or all balls on because of its position in the jaws of the pocket, the awarding of a Free Ball will not be one of the options open to the referee.
It is because of this condition that the rule is included and worded as it is and in simple terms, a Free Ball cannot be awarded if the cue-ball is, in the expressions most in use, ‘jaw snookered’, or more commonly, ‘angled’ (both now not officially in use BTW) after a foul.
It is also true that in any case after a foul where the ball on is touching, or extremely close to a cushion and a perfect ‘T’ is formed by the cushion and the line of the cue-ball in relation to that ball on (see diagram), that both extreme edges are available and therefore a Free Ball may not be awarded and that if the line of the cue-ball to the ball on is not 90° in relation to the cushion, i.e. it is more than or less than, then a Free Ball may also not be awarded.
The Cue-ball and the Red on the Baulk line along with the Right Baulk cushion form the perfect 90˚ ‘T’ with both extreme edges of the red accessible. The cue-ball and red in the top half of the table do not form a ‘T’ with the cushion, but with the dotted line and as can be seen the part of the red ball intersected by that line and closest to the cushion is not accessible to the cue-ball and so both extreme edges are now not available. Regardless in such cases, a Free Ball may still not be awarded because it is the cushion which prevents the fact but cannot be a snookering factor.
The mistaken assumption that an obligated call of ‘Miss’ is required from a referee in any situation where the curved face of a cushion prevents a direct stroke to a ball or balls on, is held by many players and that assumption is often made because of the reading of this rule without understanding the context of its application, where the awarding or not of a Free Ball is the case in point and not any application of Rule 14.