Fixing Cricket – Slow Over Rates

We all love cricket here at Being Outside Cricket. Writers and readers, we’re united by our love for the sport. But just because we love something, it doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t change some things if we could. Modern cricket is filled with anachronisms, compromises, and petty self-interest which often leaves fans feeling annoyed and shortchanged. The most frustrating thing is that many of these issues can easily be addressed, it just requires The Powers That Be to spend a tiny amount of time and money on fixing them.

Recently I’ve noticed quite a few overs lost in Tests, or innings overrunning in ODIs. In the two matches so far of the Basil D’Oliveira series between England and South Africa there have been 11 missing overs. This is despite the extra half hour teams have, lowering the required over rate from 15 to roughly 13.8 per hour. Even so, there was no punishment for either team because the game ended within five days and there are generous allowances for the time taken with reviews, wickets, and even boundaries. In the Champions Trophy there were three cases of punishment for slow over rates, even with the ICC’s lax enforcement of the rules.

Does It Matter?

It could be said that slow over rates rarely have an impact on the result. England’s last two Test matches ended with over a day left, even with the lost overs. The Champions Trophy games with slow over rates all had results. Fundamentally, little would have changed if these games finished on time. It’s not about the integrity of the game, it’s about the fans.

Cricket supporters get shafted on an unfortunately regular basis, particularly if they go to see Test matches. They buy overpriced tickets for what usually aren’t great seats, where they can buy overpriced food, washing it down with overpriced beer. On top of all that, due to cricket’s almost unique inability to play in the rain, they often see a lot less than a full game or day’s play without any kind of refund. A quick look at the ECB’s refund policy shows that spectators only get a full refund if 15 overs or less are bowled in a day, and half is refunded is between 15 and 30 overs are played in a day. There aren’t many places where, if you buy something and only get half of what you paid for, you don’t get a full refund. If you pay for a day’s play and only see 45 overs, you get nothing. By almost any measure, that’s poor value.

So it is with slow over rates. If someone pays to see 90 innings and they only see 85, they’re being cheated out of what they are owed. If they’re still queueing for their incredibly expensive food and drink while the second innings starts because the ODI mid-innings interval was cut to 30 minutes, they’re missing out on what they paid for. This has a real long-term impact, spectators who feel ill-treated will go to cricket games less often or stop completely.

Arguably the more important issue is the enjoyment of the game. It is the perception of people who aren’t cricket fans that it is a slow and boring sport where almost nothing happens. When a fielding team are bowling at 12-13 overs per hour, I feel quite a bit of sympathy with that viewpoint.

My Solution

Clearly the current system isn’t working. The umpires have a massive amount of latitude when it comes to excusing slow over rates, and clearly do everything in their power to avoid banning captains. Particularly, if you were being cynical, captains from the ‘Big 3’ nations who largely control world cricket. Even so, 4 captains have received bans in the past year (Misbah-ul-Haq, Azhar Ali, Masrafe Mortaza and Upal Tharanga), and it still hasn’t in any way acted as a deterrent.

What I believe cricket needs is a clear, strict, unambiguous rule with a punishment which is significant enough to discourage fielding teams from slowing down but also not disproportionate. My suggestion is this: Sessions always finish at their scheduled time (with some leniency for truly unavoidable delays), and the batting team receive 6 penalty runs for every ball lost.

Take for example England’s game against New Zealand in the recent Champions Trophy. England were batting in the first inning and scored a good total of 310 in their 50 overs, but it overran by 28 minutes (or to put it another way, by 7 overs). After some ‘careful consideration’ by the match umpires, this was reduced to only being 8 minutes (2 overs) slow and the New Zealand players received fines but no suspension. I’m not aware of any significant delays in the game which took 20 minutes out of the game, but clearly the officials decided otherwise. If the ICC followed my suggestion, then England would have amassed a total of over 500 runs and the New Zealand players wouldn’t have been fined or at risk of suspension. As for people watching in the stands or at home, they would have had a full hour to enjoy their lunch rather than just 32 minutes.

Which isn’t to say that this would be without problems. I’ve posted my suggestion here in the comments a few times and have had some flaws highlighted. D’Arthez pointed out that ball boys (and possibly the crowd) might delay throwing the ball back to the fielders when the away team is bowling. Certainly there’s also a considerable incentive for batsmen to waste as much time as possible, acting like Stuart Broad trying to bat for a draw. Pulling out of their batting stance, tying their laces, redoing their pads and gloves, feigning cramps, moving the sightscreens, all the old pro’s tricks. Of course this could be prevented by firm umpiring, but if we had that then there wouldn’t be any reason to change from the current rules. But despite this, and other wrinkles that would need ironing out, I think it’s an improvement on the current system.

So that’s my idea. If you have any comments on this, your own solutions, or just general comments on over rates please leave them below.


21 thoughts on “Fixing Cricket – Slow Over Rates

  1. AB Jul 26, 2017 / 8:12 am

    This really isn’t that big a problem. Many spectators will happily arrive late and miss the first 2 overs, miss 3 overs to get their lunch ahead of the lunch time rush, frequently miss large portions of the latter part of the game to queue at the bar, and miss another 5 overs because they’ve left early to get to their dinner date. People clearly don’t care about seeing a full 90 overs. Messing with the fundamentals of the game by awarding penalty runs feels like a cure that is worse than the disease.

    Simplest solution: the start of each session occur at the usual time, but the end of each session are when 30 overs have been bowled.

    So if the fielding side takes until 1:20 to bowl 30 overs, they only get a 20 minute lunch break. Neither team will want that.

    “As for people watching in the stands or at home, they would have had a full hour to enjoy their lunch rather than just 32 minutes.”

    This is an odd claim. The “lunch” interval is for the players and umpire to have lunch, not the spectators. Whenever I go to the test match, most people eat their lunch at 12 oclock, and then spend the 1pm interval sitting reading the paper in boredom waiting for the play to start again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • dannycricket Jul 26, 2017 / 9:02 am

      I must confess, I’ve literally never been to an international match so I was making assumptions here. Certainly if I paid £40+ to watch a day’s play I’d want to see as much of it as possible, both in terms of overs bowled and eating during the lunch break. Even when watching or listening at home I try to have my lunch during the lunch break so I don’t miss anything. I honestly didn’t think this was weird, but maybe it is…

      As for “messing with the fundamentals of the game”, bowling overs in the allotted time is a fundamental part of the game, people just pick and choose which ones they care about. It also assumes that if the punishment becomes one that players and fans can’t ignore, like penalty runs, then fielding teams won’t suddenly discover the ability to manage 15+ overs per hour. Right now the players don’t care about the 20% match fee fines as it’s usually a tiny percentage of the annual pay, and it’s enforced so rarely by the umpires even when they should. Perhaps if the current rules were strictly enforced 100% of the time, that would be enough to solve the problem?

      As for your suggestion about cutting the lunch break, that’s already what happens in ODIs. The England v New Zealand game I mentioned from the Champions Trophy had a 30 minute mid-inning interval rather than the scheduled 45 minutes. It obviously didn’t act as a deterrent for the New Zealand players.


      • Sean B Jul 26, 2017 / 6:11 pm

        £40..Try more like £65-£100 in London…


    • Mark Jul 26, 2017 / 9:04 am

      That has always been my solution. The fielding side and the two batsman don’t want to lose their lunch or tea interval. If they are still out there at 1.20pm most of the players on the field. will be pissed off. (Particularly if you have Gatting as captain!) The other advantage is that the governing bodies can’t magically create a lunch hour for the players like they can pay their teams fines. The main point is that you are taking the players rest time not their money. I suspect the reason against this is the catering budgets. They want to flog food and are worried they may lose business if play starts again in 20 minutes.

      As with all laws I’m sure that in some cases there might be the odd exception but I bet most lunch hours will not start after 1.10.

      The one problem is that it doesn’t adress the last session. If they bowl at 12 overs an hour after tea by 6pm there will still be 6 overs to bowl. But those could be mopped up by the extra half an hour or you could impose run penalties for those overs. Or perhaps make those overs be bowled the next morning so insuring the fielding team get no lunch break at all.

      Or perhaps you just nominate one player at the close of play, and then shoot him. Perhaps a bit harsh. I bet they would get their 90 overs in though!


      • dannycricket Jul 26, 2017 / 9:08 am

        Thanks Mark. 6 penalty runs per ball doesn’t seem so harsh now, does it?


        • Mark Jul 26, 2017 / 9:44 am

          Ha ha No it doesn’t compared to more drastic measures.

          The point is the authories could take action but they don’t. And they don’t take action because the governing bodies don’t want to do anything. And the governing bodies don’t want to do anything because their own players don’t want to do anything.

          Thats why we get these very obvious token bans to captains of the non big 3 nations. Crowds also don’t care so I guess we get what we dererve. How many people would happily accept the same service from their supermarket.

          “Sorry sir we are not going to give you the full packet of corn flakes, and I have taken a bit of your milk for my own cup of tea.’ Oh yes I can see that working….not.


  2. SimonH Jul 26, 2017 / 8:48 am

    As someone who poured over every detail in the public domain, I can confirm there was no indication over-rates were discussed at all at the last ICC meeting – or at several before that.

    I think we all know that they don’t mind the dawdling about because more ads can be crammed in. There are certainly non-UK TV broadcasters that routinely show ads between deliveries.

    I’m not keen on penalty runs. I’ve had a preference for banning the captain but the problems with it are becoming obvious (and I’ve never liked the idea of depriving spectators from seeing the best players). There are practical problems but it isn’t fundamentally a practical problem – it’s a lack of will.

    One easy thing that could be done is to speed up the interminable DRS process. The third umpire should be able to call ball-tracking before Snicko (how many times do we see endless rocking-and-rolling for a nick when it’s obvious the ball didn’t pitch in line? They only introduced this because an umpire forgot once but that could be tackled in other ways). I’d also favour a maximum of three replays. If it needs more, it isn’t a clear error.


    • dannycricket Jul 26, 2017 / 9:35 am

      Yeah, it’s an interesting balancing act. I believe that the increased over rate would be more attractive to viewers, and therefore more commercially valuable to TV companies. Also if sessions/games/days finished on time then that helps TV companies handle their scheduling. On the other hand, as you rightly point out, it could cut the breaks in play which they currently use to show adverts.

      I chose penalty runs for two reasons. Firstly, I dislike cricket’s propensity not to punish players or teams until after the game has finished. I think if someone does something against the rules in a match, the punishment should start in that match. Again looking at the England v New Zealand game in the Champions Trophy for which Kane Williamson should have been suspended, why should their next opponents (Bangladesh) face a weakened team when it was England who were the ‘victims’?

      Secondly, I think it’s something players care about. 10-50% of their match fee is nothing to most international cricketers, even a 1-2 game suspension is largely treated as a free holiday. Losing a game because they conceded 200+ penalty runs, on the other hand, is a huge deal.

      If this was brought in (it won’t be), or the ICC become more strict on over rates some other way (they won’t), I’d hope they would speed up reviews too. The most obvious way would be for the ball tracking result to be displayed the moment the calculations are finished rather than waiting for their turn. Unless the ball was caught, that would usually end most LBW appeal reviews at the earliest possible point.


  3. SimonH Jul 26, 2017 / 9:06 am

    Newman’s reporting Dawson plays tomorrow because Farbrace said they think the pitch will turn. Wood’s fitness will be assessed tomorrow morning.

    The DT has a headline about the ECB awarding international rights for ten years after 2020. I can’t read the whole article but, if the headline is accurate, that seems madness.


    • SimonH Jul 26, 2017 / 12:12 pm

      Oh, and look who’s writing Sky’s Test preview:

      Gratuitous Cook nonsense? Check.

      Ridiculous over-written metaphor? Check.

      Chipping away at the coach? Check. (Not that Bayliss shouldn’t be under scrutiny but not with a Flower-y agenda).

      Blaming the new captain? Check.

      Blaming the selectors with no broader context? Check.

      Repetition of a tired personal hobby horse? Check.

      Supporting said hobby horse with inaccurate evidence from world cricket? Check.

      Gratuitous Graham Gooch reference? Check.

      No mention of the last time these two teams met on the forthcoming ground? Check. (Tell us about the cloud cover again, Mike….)

      Liked by 2 people

      • SimonH Jul 26, 2017 / 1:08 pm

        Wood so far off fitness he isn’t making it to that last fitness test and TRJ plays (according to the Guardian). That decision to play him in the Second Test isn’t getting any better.

        Root possibly more equivocal on whether Dawson or Malan plays (although that’s probably just a case of too much being read into bland, blocking statements).


        • Mark Jul 26, 2017 / 7:27 pm

          There is a Selvey Malan connection thst goes past just Middx. Selvey was banging on about his trip to Pakistan on CWOTV. Selvey was involved in this match that was to show its now safe for cricketers to go back to Pakistan. ( good luck selling that to other sides around the world)

          Anyway, one of the just 5 over seas players who went on that trip was……. Malan. Hmmmm

          Make of that what you will. Fair play to Malan for agreeing to go. Most wouldn’t im sure. I wonder who asked him to take the trip?

          Can’t understand why Sky have hired Selvey. They have loads of other people who could write better stuff. Sky need to break away from the Flower/Cook dog and pony show. New captain, new start. Last person you need is Selvey.

          Liked by 1 person

      • nonoxcol Jul 26, 2017 / 1:37 pm

        “A personal [abstract noun]”. Check.

        I particularly love that “rivals at the top of the batting tree” section that skips over Kohli because he BATS AT FOUR.

        Also, “Middlesex are expecting him and Malan back forthwith” stuck in my craw after his “Mike Cyclops” pieces on the county championship finale last summer. And I’m not even a Yorkshireman.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Mark Jul 26, 2017 / 9:15 am

    In the 1980s a friend of mine had a theory on how England should approach test matches against the WI which we kept getting beaten in.The WI 4 man pace attack regularly did not bowl their overs in the allotted 6 hours. There were no time limits in those days, and play just went on until they had finally bowled the 90 overs. Sometimes that was 7.20pm. By that time most had left to catch a train or bus home.

    By running over time the WI were changing the rules of the game. If they had to bowl inside the 6 hours then one of two things had to happen. Either their fast bowlers had to speed up their overs by getting through their overs quicker or bring on a spinner to bowl 10-15 overs or so. Wither way it would open up the chance for more runs. If the fast bowlers were forced to hurry up,and get through their overs quicker they would have been less effective. They would have tired more quickly and offered up more loose balls to hit.

    Anyway my friends theory was England should just play very slow style. Not playing any attacking shots whatsoever unless very low risk, and just try and bat for two days per innings. Watching the ball go over their head over after over without playing an attacking shot in anger. (Easier to say Than do.) His theory was that if England could bat for 3 and half days per match they could probably draw most of the matches.

    I doubt it would have worked but the refusal to impose over rates did allow a team to bowl just 4 bowlers. The WIn of course argued that they only needed about 80 overs to bowl sides out so who cares how fast they were bowled at? But that misses the point. If they were required to speed up they would have been less effective.

    England tried to copy the model by playing 4 bowlers, and bowling their overs equally slowly. It was never going to work, and as they got no backing from the authorities my friend came up with his crack pot theory.


    • dannycricket Jul 26, 2017 / 9:41 am

      Yeah, one ‘drawback’ from enforcing the over rate rules would be that it presumably favours teams with world class spinners. Fast bowlers might not be able to manage long spells without slowing down, or they might have to shorten their run up.


  5. Benny Jul 26, 2017 / 11:31 am

    Must say if there weren’t someone counting the overs for me (scoreboard, Nasser, whatever) I wouldn’t notice if they were a few short by the end of the day. I do notice delays that are irritating such as overlong reviews, as has been mentioned, too many support staff running on with drinks, spare gloves, instructions and really hate the need to have a war conference before the next ball.

    6 runs penalty would surely wake the chaps up but can’t see it happening. How about 6 of the best for offending captains or detention for failing teams where they would be required to write 200 lines of “must not do it again or I’ll have to listen to a #39 lecture for a day”? After all, that sort of discipline made me the fine, upstanding and balanced person I am today!


  6. SimonH Jul 26, 2017 / 4:10 pm

    Exhibit Z of the absolute shit-house running of international cricket:


  7. SimonH Jul 26, 2017 / 4:20 pm

    Another splendid read from Tim Wigmore:

    So the first three days at the Oval are sold out as were the first three at TB and the first four at Lord’s? Where are all the Tweets and MSM articles trumpeting the good news about a) the continuing popularity of Test cricket b) the attractiveness of SA as visitors?

    Doesn’t fit into some agendas, does it?


    • Sean B Jul 26, 2017 / 6:11 pm

      I’m at the Oval on Friday, so if anyone else from the blog is also there, then do say hello….


  8. d'Arthez Aug 4, 2017 / 2:00 pm

    So if we’re two overs short for the day, will the bill be sent to the member of the audience who got unwell? Or should England be rewarded for the “sloppy overrate”, through no fault of the fielding side and thus gift England a free 72 runs?

    Suddenly I can see the home sides bringing a battalion of 90-year olds to the play, if they’re batting …


    • dannycricket Aug 4, 2017 / 9:48 pm

      I’m not suggesting a 100% enforcement on this. Injuries on the field would be accounted for, as they are in virtually all sports. Unavoidable stoppages, like floodlights going out, would be accounted for. What wouldn’t cause any additional time to be added would be things which always occur during the normal course of a game. Boundaries, wickets, the fielding team having a conference, reviews, etc.


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