Guest Post – Andy On Over Rates

Given that over rates have been topical in the last Test, and again today, with only 80 overs bowled (counting as 82 with the change of innings) we decided to bring forward a post that we’ve been looking to put up for a little while.  It seemed appropriate, and although it means no report on today, this is rather a report on a problem with Test cricket as it stands.

We’ve always welcomed guest contributions, and this from Andy is in our view a good one.

As always with people who post, treat them fairly, they aren’t the same as us curmudgeons, and remember, they’ve taken the time, their own time, to do this for us for which we are really grateful.

TLG/Dmitri – take it away Andy



Over rates – a ramble

First off I’d just like to say well done to Dmitri et al.  Just writing this article has put me through the mill with the amount of research & number crunching I’ve ended up doing.  Not sure I could do it as regularly as these guys. [enough of that nonsense…ed.]

Anyway – This started off as a comment in reply to something Chris wrote after day 1 of the Edgbaston test (I think, maybe Day 2).  Then it started getting longer and longer so I felt I couldn’t post it into the comments section – so I pinged Dmitri and offered an article for the blog, and so it grew into the monster you are about to read!

(Warning – this article has brought out my inner Nerd (Capital N), but that is not to say I can do maths, use excel properly or that my calculations are correct!!!)

One of the popular gripes of the modern fan is that over rates are rubbish.  90 overs in 6 hours should be more than manageable.  How can they only bowl 86 (day 1) or 81 (day 3).  That is just embarrassing – surely.  But, rather than grumble, I thought I’d look into it (and then bore you all with my findings).

 Begin the Begin

Where to start – well, how about with how long should a cricket match actually take?

I for one was not really sure whether a day’s play is 6 hours, or 90 overs, or how the extra half hour comes into play (this can make a big difference to the number of overs a side gets in), so let’s look at the ICC Standard Test Playing Conditions.

Condition 16.1 deals with the start / end times (I’ll paraphrase because it’s long and wordy).

– The home board determines the start and end times, so long as there are 6 hours play,

16.1.1 – Minimum overs in the day

– Play shall continue until the completion of a minimum target of 90 overs (or a minimum of 15 overs per hour) or the completion of scheduled time (but with no more than 30 minutes extra time).

So basically there should be at least 90 overs a day right.  Well – the Conditions say they can finish when 90 overs are bowled, or when time is up (6 hours), but critically it basically states that there will be no more than 6.5 hours play (assuming no rain/bad light delays – which is a whole other kettle of fish).

The extra half hour in effect mostly offsets the interruptions in play such as the fall of wickets and drinks (we will come back to this below).

 Can’t Get There From Here

Right – so can we get on with over rates now?  Back to the ICC Standard Test Playing Conditions state; (I’ll paraphrase again).

Condition 16.3 – Minimum over rates

The min over rate shall be 15 overs per hour

So in theory you get 4 minutes per over – Plenty of time!  This I think is where people stop reading.

The condition goes on to state;

The umpires should calculate the days overrate at end of the match and will average the rate for the fielding team across both batting innings – accounting for interruptions (such as injuries, drinks, reviews, wickets, timewasting etc).

In other words for everything that happens outside of the ball being bowled, played and fielded – then that time should be accounted for.  It can either be a positive or a negative allowance.  So the fielding side are not punished if the batsmen are deliberately timewasting, likewise it’s obvious if the fielding side are timewasting.  Also, if the rate is slow in the first innings, it could be balanced by the second (this may be important – keep reading to find out).

There are budgeted interruptions/allowances;

  • Wickets get 2 minutes
  • Drinks get 4 minutes (and should be 1 per session)
  • Change of innings lose 2 overs (but only if not taken at a regular break such as lunch/tea)

A review would be unbudgeted in that it could take 30 seconds or 3 minutes – depending on how easy/difficult it is.  I’m sure you can think of many interruptions that just seem to occur in Cricket!  For example – how is Anderson getting removed from the attack by the umpire accounted for?  How long did it take?

So where are we?  In (at most) 6.5 hours official play, we should be seeing 90 overs at on average 4 minutes per over – minus some odds and ends which are allowed to eat into the time.

Horse to Water

What does this mean in the real world then?  Now that the 3rd test has finished I can go and crunch some numbers and see how the over rates work out (can I just say that I wish time were metric as it would make excel so much easier).

We know from the Playing Conditions that the over rate is an average across each innings – not just how many overs are bowled per day or in a single innings, but overs bowled in the match against the time taken – so we have the following;

Pakistan’s over rate (so 1st and 3rd innings when England batted) was;


England’s over rate (so 2nd and 4th innings when Pakistan batted) was


Ah ha I hear you say – so the over rate was short and I’ve been short changed, and I’m owed money and the Captain should be banned, right!?!?!

Wwweeelllllll, not so I’m afraid.

These have been calculated based on the wickets falling, official drinks, a guesstimate of 3 minutes per review and no other distractions (even though I’m sure there were plenty… Jimmy…).

Another wrinkle is the ‘change of innings’ loss of 2 overs.  It doesn’t matter after England’s 1st innings (end of day 1), or Pakistan’s 1st innings (tea of day 3).  However the end of England’s 2nd innings was mid-morning on the 5th day – so 2 overs are removed from the required amount of overs to be bowled.  I suspect this is not given to either side in terms of a time allowance (as the 2 overs are lost between the end of one innings and the start of the next), but I could be wrong.  I haven’t included it in the above over rates.

Further to this – A little play with the spreadsheet (like I said, I’m a Nerd, I made a spreadsheet) suggests that there would only need to be 15 minutes of additional deducted time for Pakistan to get to 15 overs per hour for their match average (and only 5 minutes for England).

It’s eminently believable that 15 minutes could be accounted for with those extra drinks, changing gloves, moving the sight screen, or warnings to bowlers etc, especially across almost 3 days of Pakistan bowling.

Side note – Good umpires are supposed to make notes of every delay and its cause so that they can accurately calculate the over rate.  I don’t know if those out in the middle of a test make such notes (you do see them scribbling occasionally) or if they just leave that to the 3rd umpire.

I can well imagine the umpires only really enforcing a minimum over rate ruling if a Captain has been obviously taking the Piss and they cannot gain a bit of time here and there.

 Worst Joke Ever

Looking closer at the data, England’s bowling in the 1st Pakistan innings came out to 14.12 overs per hour– which was the worst innings rate in the match.  England only got near 15 overs per hour due to the exceptionally fast over rate of 16.71 they managed in the 2nd Pakistan innings.  It’s amazing what can be achieved when someone puts their mind to it.  Pakistan’s first bowling innings went at a respectable 15.13 while their 2nd bowling fell to 14.28.

So what are we going to do about day 3 when only 81 overs were bowled?  If I’ve got my spreadsheet working correctly it appears that the days over rate was a measly 13.61 overs per hour (accounting for deductions – but not the big one… Jimmy….).  Now both teams batted so who is to blame for the lack of overs.  Well, England bowled at 13.53 overs per hour while Pakistan bowled at 13.73 overs per hour.  Neither is great – but one is worse than the other.

But as I’ve just spent the last however many pages telling you – whether you like it or not, this doesn’t matter as it is the match rate that counts…


A Match is targeted for 90 overs, but the Playing Conditions state a game must finish after 6.5 hours – no matter what, and the fielding captain is not at risk of punishment so long as they have gone along at 15 overs per hour after allowances have been made for wickets, reviews etc (or whatever else the Umpire has decided to allow or ignore – depending on how rude any given team is I assume).

Which is not to say that it is fair to the fans that they don’t bowl 90 overs in a day…. Sorry Chris, you weren’t expecting an actual answer were you…

Please correct me if I have read/interpreted anything incorrectly.  I’m far from an expert.  Thanks for indulging me and well done to anyone who spotted the REM song titles.

Bonus section

If you have skipped to the end for the conclusion – you have gone too far, go back a bit, if not, you are in for some more fun…

So, we know that there should be a minimum 15 overs per hour (over the full days play), but what happens when this is breached?

From the ICC Players Code of Conduct

Condition 2.5 (and Appendix 2) – Minimum over rate offences (for test matches)

It is a minor offence if the over rate is up to 5 overs short

It is a serious offence if it is more than 5 overs short

For a 1st Minor offence the Fielding Captain is fined 20% of his fee per over that is short, while the players are fined 10% (I assume this is all the players not just bowlers or something silly).

For a 2nd Minor offence (within 12 months) the captain and players receive the same fine but the captain is suspended for one match (of the same format).

For a serious offence the players get the above fine for the first 5 overs, then a 20% fine for the overs missing beyond the first 5 overs.  The captain however starts accumulating (insert Jaws music here) Suspension Points.

Now, the Code doesn’t say the captain gets any fine for serious offences, but as he is a player – does he qualify for the fine in the above paragraph?  Who knows, I guess we will have to wait for it to happen to see!

Suspension points are a whole different topic and are wwwaaaayyyy to much of a diversion for this article.


England were last fined (in a test match) for the 5th Ashes test at the Oval last year for being ‘2 overs short of target’ – I’m guessing that the ICC calculate overs short whereas I’ve looked at how much time the umpires would need to account for… Maybe I should go and look at that match and bore you with those numbers as well….<tumble weed/>

Further reading

The ICC Playing Conditions and Code of Conduct are buried under the publications section of the website.  If you fancy a nap, they are just the thing.

I also came across these websites are I was reading up.  I wish to thank Thatscricket and cricketingview for researching an area of cricket that I am interested in (see what I’ve done there….Cough….FICJAM….Cough).

In all seriousness, they helped break down a few things and while my post and these tread similar ground, I hope I have managed to add value without copying!