Is English Cricket Too Posh?

It seems fair to say that cricket in England has always been a class-based affair. For almost 200 years there was a separation between the independently wealthy amateur gentlemen and working-class professionals. It was only in 1963 that amateurism officially ended in English first-class cricket. There has always been a sense that English cricket is a game for aristocrats which the proles can only play at their sufferance and on their terms.

Even in recent history, there has been a bias toward people from privileged backgrounds. In the last 40 years, public school boys have accounted for 80% of the ECB/TCCB chairmen, 67.5% of the chairmen of selectors, and Test captains in 65% of the games. To put these numbers into context, in 2016/17 the percentage of children attending public schools in the UK was 7.9%.

Considering the over-representation of the well-to-do in the higher echelons of English cricket, you will be unsurprised to learn that this pattern continues in the selection of the England Test team. In the past 10 years there have been 126 England Men’s Test matches featuring 61 cricketers. Players who attended fee-paying schools make up 56.2% of the appearances in this period.

This was higher than I expected, but the real shock came when I looked a little deeper. If we divide the players into two groups, batsmen and wicketkeepers versus bowlers and allrounders, there is a massive disparity between the two. “Only” 26.5% of appearances by bowlers were by public school boys, and Stuart Broad’s 109 games account for 17.2% of them. Conversely, 81.7% of appearances by batsmen were from public school boys. That is a patently ridiculous figure.

The question this begs for me is this: “Why are people from ‘the right kind of family’ more likely to be batsmen than bowlers?” The most likely answer that I can give is coaching. People who attend fee-paying schools probably receive a higher level of cricket coaching from a younger age than people who go to comprehensive schools. It’s possible to train someone of average height, average strength and average speed to become a decent batsman, and wealthy people have the ability to make that happen.

The same is not necessarily true of bowling. There is an old adage in coaching: “You can’t teach speed”. I mean, you obviously can, but every person has a limit beyond which they can’t get any faster. One thing you definitely can’t train is height, which is also an advantage when becoming a fast bowler. No matter how much money you throw at it, you can’t make a posh boy grow 6’4″ tall and be capable of bowling at 85 mph. Bowling is therefore a significantly more representative and meritocratic discipline in English cricket.

I suspect that when counties scout their local clubs and schools, children from public schools would appear to be superior choices. Having received better coaching from a younger age, they will be playing closer to their potential abilities. This would however mean that counties overlook kids from less affluent areas who might have lesser abilities but greater potential.

There are, I suspect, other reasons. As I’ve pointed out at the start, senior roles in the ECB tend to favour people from privileged backgrounds. Public school boys have a reputation for intelligence, confidence and leadership ability. You only have to look at other areas of public life which they dominate like investment banking or politics to see how quickly these stereotypes fall apart under even the slightest scrutiny, but nevertheless they are considered “well-spoken” and “the kind of boy you hope your daughter marries”.

This disparity angers me for several reasons, not the least of which is that we as a country are probably losing multiple potentially great Test batsmen from the game simply because of the circumstances of their birth. It also has a massive long-term impact on the game. Most of the off-the-field roles in English cricket are taken by former players. Administrators, coaches, selectors, journalists, commentators and pundits are all likely to be former players. If the majority of players are from public schools, that means that they will also dominate all of the other aspects of English cricket.

So what can be done about it? Fortunately, there is already an example of a country whose cricket was also dominated by a wealthy and privileged elite but have reversed that trend in recent years. Of course, that country was South Africa.

Obviously the two situations aren’t even remotely comparable. Black South Africans had faced over a century of institutionalised racism in all aspects of society, including cricket. Even after reinstatement into world cricket and the election of the ANC, there were relatively few cricket clubs in black communities. One of the solutions to this issue has been the use of quotas, requiring minimum numbers of black and coloured players in their international and first-class teams.

This approach is not without its downsides. I’m sure most people on this blog will be aware that Kevin Pietersen cited CSA’s policies as restricting his chances of playing in his home country. Several Kolpak players in county cricket have also suggested this, although a more cynical person might suggest that for most it seems like a straightforward financial decision. I don’t think this would be as strong an issue as it is in South Africa.

The current system in South Africa allows 5 white players in any first-class team, and there are only 6 first-class teams. This means that there are essentially 30 professional contracts available to white South Africans, which does seem somewhat restrictive. If similar quotas were enforced for privately educated players in county cricket, there would be 90 spots for them because English cricket has three times the number of teams. This seems like an eminently workable number, allowing room for both experienced professionals and developing future stars but without allowing a wealthy minority to dominate the sport.

A quota system would force counties to look beyond the low-hanging fruit of public school cricketers and encourage them to help promote mainstream youth participation in their regions. If the privately educated became minorities on the cricket field, hopefully that would also filter through over time to all of the other facets of the game. Indeed, if English cricket ever weans itself off rich entitled men being in charge, perhaps they will finally close the divide between those Inside and Outside Cricket?

As always, we welcome your thoughts and comments below.

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England vs. West Indies, 3rd Test Day 1

In the lead up to this game, the momentum (if you believe in such things) had clearly swung decisively towards the West Indies. The Caribbean team were resurgent, inevitably heading towards a series win in England for the first time in 29 years. England were broken and reeling, both mediocre and at a low ebb. Most of the talk seemed to be about Anderson needing 3 wickets to reach 500 in his Test career. The day before, England captain Joe Root announced that Toby Roland Jones would replace an unfit Chris Woakes whilst the West Indies unsurprisingly named an unchanged side.

The morning began with the West Indies claiming the initial advantage by winning the toss. This summer, the team which won the toss has also gone on to win the game in 5 out of 6 opportunities. The only exception was the previous game, where good batting conditions and a sub-par first innings England batting performance conspired to allow the West Indies back into the game.

If it was meant to be a massive advantage to the West Indies, it certainly didn’t seem like one. The constant threat of rain and swinging conditions left the batsmen struggling to survive through most of the day. Cook dropped a slip chance early on, which might be the start of a worrying pattern for England if you consider his two drops at Headingley. Brathwaite and Kyle Hope both edged deliveries from Jimmy Anderson to the wicketkeeper either side of a rain break in the morning session, taking Anderson to the tantalising career total of 499 wickets.

After Lunch, the West Indies regrouped somewhat with Kieran Powell and Shai Hope sharing a partnership of 56 runs, until Shai Hope edged one from Toby Roland-Jones. What followed this dismissal was a remarkable display of bowling from Ben Stokes, or quite possibly a terrible display of batting from the remaining West Indies batsmen. From 78-3, they lost 7 wickets for a total of 45 runs. Stokes meanwhile claimed his best ever figures of 6-22.

Stokes’ first of the day was a sharp return catch from Kieran Powell, which removed the set batsmen from the middle. He also managed to bowl Chase with a beautiful delivery and induced an edge from Dowrich before Tea gave the visiting batsmen a brief respite. But unfortunately for the tourists, Stokes picked up where he left off after the break. Holder and Gabriel were both bowled by deliveries which hooped in from wide outside their off stumps, whilst Roach edged a good ball to Anderson. The innings ended with the West Indies standing on 123 all out, and England rampant.

Whilst in some ways the pressure was off England with such a small total to overcome, the conditions still favoured the bowlers and at least three batsmen were playing for their place. Stoneman didn’t do his case any good, edging a short and wide delivery from Kemar Roach after only scoring 1 run. Roach managed to get Cook the same way a few overs later, albeit from a much better delivery that Stoneman’s. Westley missed a straight ball from Holder and ended up being given out LBW, although Hawkeye suggested is was barely going to clip the stumps.

Root followed soon after with a dismissal bearing some similarity to Stoneman’s, edging a short and wide ball to the wicketkeeper. It was an unnecessary shot in the situation, his departure leaving England on the precipice at 24/4. Stokes and Malan managed to bat out the next five overs, at which point the umpires called it a day due to bad light.

So the day ends with the game still very much in the balance. What seemed like a catastrophic decision to bat first by the West Indies might turn out to be a tactical masterstroke. Stokes’ 6-22 lowered his career Test bowling average significantly, where he’s getting closer to the point of justifying his selection as a bowler alone. Stoneman and Westley both hurt their chances of playing in the Ashes this winter, but Malan has a great opportunity on his home ground to impress the selectors. Given both team’s fragility and moments of brilliance in this series, it would be a brave man to predict what will happen tomorrow.

As always, please comment below.

England vs West Indies: 2nd Test, Day Three

If one thing defined today, it was missed opportunities. Both teams were rueing missed DRS reviews, drops and misfields which, had they been taken, could have put them in the driving seat for this game.

The day started with the West Indies in the box seat after Day 2. They were already 71 runs ahead with only 5 wickets down (including a nightwatchman), and they had the chance to put England in an impossible situation with the bat. Jimmy Anderson put paid to that idea in the first two balls of the day, taking two wickets. If you were going to be critical, which would probably be harsh to Shai Hope in particular who amassed 147 runs the day before, both balls were short and wide enough to be left.

Immediately the momentum had swung towards England, West Indies going from 329/5 to 329/7 in two balls and they would be lucky to stretch their lead much past 100. They had that stroke of luck when Moeen Ali dropped an incredibly simple chance to dismiss Jermaine Blackwood from Broad’s bowling in the next over. This drop allowed the West Indies to bat through the rest of the session, and by Lunch they had increased their lead to 169.

England’s innings started with an unusual change of pace, with Stoneman looking more dangerous and fluent than the more experienced Cook. Together they posted the first 50 partnership for this duo, and only the second of this summer for England, before Cook edged a ball from Holder to the wicketkeeper. With the West Indies now feeling on top, Stoneman and Westley did well to survive until Tea.

In the first over of the evening session, Jason Holder managed to get the ball to cut into Mark Stoneman, hitting him on the hand and dislocating his finger. The England physio ‘relocated’ it (I suggest you don’t look at the photos), and Stoneman continued. Shortly after that, Westley was lucky to survive a run-out when he was ballwatching whilst Stoneman was running for a second, with only Bishoo’s failure to safely gather the ball saving him. Westley didn’t manage to cash in however, instead choosing to chase a wide swinging ball in the next over but edging it to the keeper.

Stoneman was bowled by Shannon Gabriel soon after, although replays suggested that Gabriel was lucky not to have conceded a front foot no ball with perhaps just the smallest fraction of his boot behind the line. Perhaps. This brought in Dawid Malan, who was fortunate to survive early on when he got a very faint edge which wasn’t given out on the field and the West Indies elected not to review. Clearly Dawid Malan is a shit bloke. A few overs later they spurned another chance, as Kyle Hope dropped a sliced shot from Joe Root which went right at him at gully. Root also survived being given out LBW after he reviewed the decision, as well as an unsuccessful LBW review by Holder.

The strangest cricket was left for the end though. In the penultimate over of the day, the West Indies’ specialist spinner Bishoo was brought out for what was only his second over of the day. This seems a particularly odd decision when England’s frailties against spin bowling are considered. Following that, the final over from Shannon Gabriel began with two wides, one of which also went for 4, and a no ball. These free runs meant that England finished the day leading by 2 runs with 7 wickets remaining.

For anyone keeping count, there were 6 overs short today, as well as 5 on the first day. I know a lot of people don’t care, but it bugs me that Stokes will likely be banned for swearing a few times whilst there’s no punishment for not fulfilling a fairly basic requirement of the game. I wrote a post here recently about it, which I’d love you to read and comment on even if you disagree.

As always, comments welcome below.

England vs West Indies: First Test, Day 2

The West Indies were poor yesterday and England, specifically Cook and Root, took full advantage of this. England were on 348/3 at the start of the day and were in a prime position to kick on and post a huge total and chase personal milestones. For the West Indies, only an old-fashioned England Test collapse could really rescue any hope of winning this game.

Unfortunately for the West Indians, both teams continued in the morning session as they had played the day before. The bowling continued to be generous to the batsman, and England continued taking full advantage of that generosity. Cook and Dawid Malan batted through the whole first session adding another 101 runs before Malan edged part-time offspinner Roston Chase in the last over before Lunch. Malan’s 65 was clearly the best of England’s three new batsmen in this game, but he also did have by far the best conditions to bat in of the three so there probably won’t be a groundswell of support for him keeping his place on the back of this performance.

After Lunch, England’s lower order were faced with a completely alien situation for them: A sizeable platform built by the specialist batsmen. To put England’s 449/4 in perspective, it is their highest 4th wicket total since they played against India at the Oval in 2011. Between 2012 and 2017, it is only the second time they have posted a 400+ total for their 4th wicket. Between 2008 and 2011, in what we now must consider a golden age for England’s batting unit, they managed it 7 times.

Faced with something they hadn’t faced before, and perhaps with instructions to bat quickly and prepare for a declaration, England’s allrounders failed to do their customary trick of more than doubling England’s run total. Stokes and Ali both fell quickly to part-time spinner Chase, whilst Bairstow chopped on from Holder. Roston Chase managed to get Cook out LBW via a DRS appeal soon after, and England declared on 514/8. With Chase taking 4 wickets, there will probably be some questions about why the West Indies didn’t select a specialist spinner in their team.

Obviously our editorial policy at BOC is to slag off Alastair Cook at every possible opportunity, but even we have to concede that a score of 243 is impressive. The West Indies bowling attack might carry all the threat of a pink sparkly rubber knife, but the powers of endurance and concentration required to bat for 9 hours against any opposition must be admired. He might not be quite as good as he was earlier in his career, but England are lucky to have him and he would be sorely missed if he retired in the near future.

West Indies’ innings started poorly for the visitors, with Kraigg Brathwaite edging an Anderson outswinger to the wicketkeeper without any runs on the board. Three overs later, Kieran Powell was lucky to survive after Ben Stokes dropped what for him would be considered a regulation catch at gully from Broad. After that scare, the West Indian batsmen regrouped and managed to score 44 runs before the English weather brought the day to a premature end.

Just to remind everyone, play will start half an hour earlier tomorrow at 1.30pm (BST) due to the rain today. The West Indies will need to bat through all of tomorrow to have any hopes of saving the game, whilst England might have to rely on scoreboard pressure, funky captaincy and tight bowling to take wickets on a flat pitch with a largely unresponsive pink ball.

As always, please feel free to comment below.

England vs West Indies: First Test, Day 1

In the lead up to today, most of the discussion has been about anything but the actual game. Will spectators and TV audience enjoy a day/night game in England? How will the pink Dukes ball perform? Which players will secure their place for the Ashes? The result appeared to be foregone, even West Indies fans seemed to have given up before a ball was bowled.

At the toss it was confirmed that Roland-Jones would keep his place in the team, with Mason Crane and Chris Woakes missing out. Joe Root won the toss and chose to bat first, which came as no surprise to anyone. Certainly it feels like the bowlers appreciated the chance to see how the new pink balls performed from the pavilion rather than working it out on the field.

The conventional wisdom about pink cricket balls is that they tend to move in the air for a few overs, then become more batsman-friendly after that. All England’s top order had to do was survive the first hour and then they could cash in through the day. To no one’s surprise, this was not how things played out. Alastair Cook’s latest partner, debutant Mark Stoneman, was bowled through the gate in the third over. It was a very good delivery from Kemar Roach which both swung and seamed, but at the same time you’d probably hope that an opener would at least get something on the ball. Westley returned to the dressing room soon after, having being given out LBW via DRS after playing down the wrong line.

This brought together the familiar partnership of Alastair Cook and Joe Root, both of whom have had difficulties converting their good innings into centuries but are still a class apart from the other English batsmen at present. Helped by slow, wayward bowling and flawed, defensive tactics from the West Indies, Cook and Root dominated the visitors past the Lunch interval and through the whole second session. It wasn’t until almost an hour into the third session of the day that the West Indies managed a breakthrough, with Kemar Roach managing to bowl Joe Root, but not before England’s captain and former captain both managed to score their respective deserved centuries. For those keeping count (you know who you are), that means that Cook has scored 100+ ‘only’ 6 times in his last 99 innings. This is more than his respective partners, but still a marked decline from his prolific earlier years. It has also been noted that Cook has struggled against strong pace attacks in recent years, and the West Indies bowling unit is definitely not a strong pace attack.

Root’s wicket brought the third of England’s auditioning batsmen to the crease, Dawid Malan. He rode his luck early on, flashing an edge from Kraigg Brathwaite just past slip, but recovered to finish the day on 28. Having reach double digits, Malan will probably feel better than Stoneman or Westley overnight about his chances of playing the whole series. At the other end, Cook had managed to bat through the whole day scoring a somewhat impressive 153. At the end of play England are 348/3, and seem to be in a great position to put the West Indies out of contention.

As always, feel free to comment below!

England vs. South Africa, 4th Test, Day 1

The game started as most games seem to nowadays for England; with many people having no idea which players would be selected. Bayliss had again expressed his belief that England didn’t need to play 8 batsmen, which seemed to suggest Dawson or Finn would be coming in to replace Dawid Malan. Malan’s performance certainly didn’t fill watchers with confidence in the last game, but then again neither did Dawson. It eventually became apparent that despite the coach’s musings, England would announce an unchanged team. The same was not true of South Africa, who were forced to replace bowlers Philander and Morris with allrounders Olivier and de Bruyn due to injury.

In a shock to many, it was dry and the game started on time. In Manchester. England won the toss, which given the rest of the series virtually guarantees that they will win, but apparently they still had to play a game of cricket first and so they elected to bat. Keaton Jennings fell quickly after edging a delivery from Olivier to the keeper for 17. It feels like this might be the last game for Jennings if he can’t make a score in the next innings, particularly if Trevor Bayliss can see Mark Stoneman play in the next week or two.

Westley came in to partner Cook, and the pair made slow and steady (emphasis on slow) progress to the lunch break and beyond.  The partnership came to a sudden end when Cook got a thin edge on a straight ball from Maharaj after playing a loose drive to a wide ball. As people who read below the line on the preview post will already know, this means that Cook now has 49 innings against South Africa and Australia since his last century.

Three overs later, Westley lost his wicket after hanging his bat well outside the line to a short and wide delivery from Rabada. This meant the fluent Root was joined by Dawid Malan, another batsman playing for a place in the next series. Malan seemed to be in better shape than in the previous game, or perhaps the conditions being less conducive to swing helped him somewhat. Either way, it was an improved but still unconvincing second game with a few loose shots and near-misses before he eventually fell edging a wide drive to second slip just before Tea.

Root and Stokes piled on the runs fairly quickly, but not without some risk. Root in particular was lucky to survive an edge which South African wicketkeeper de Kock watched go past. Fortunately for the tourists, Root only added another 12 runs as he fell for 52 runs to an LBW appeal. Root unsuccessfully appealed the decision, which suggests his judgment of such things is just as poor in front of the stumps as it is behind them. This put England in the familiar situation of having lost their last specialist batsmen for less than 200 runs, relying on their lower order to build an imposing total. Stokes and Bairstow obliged, putting on another 65 runs before Rabada bowled Stokes in the penultimate over of the day. Toby Roland-Jones came in ahead of Moeen Ali as nightwatchman but amusingly didn’t face a ball, leaving England on 260/6 at the end of the day.

All of which leaves the game fairly evenly poised going into the second day. A quick collapse tomorrow and South Africa will be well ahead, if England’s tail can add another 100 runs or more then they will be happy. Either way, perhaps there will finally be a closely contested game in this series. Comments as always welcomed below.

England vs South Africa: 3rd Test, Day Four

With England leading by 250 runs overnight and two whole days left to play, there were only two questions people were asking about the day’s play: “When will England declare?” and “How many wickets will South Africa have lost by the end of the day?”. The answer to the first question was a lot later than a lot of people would like, especially for Australian former leg spinners employed by Sky. England were clearly in no rush to build up their lead, slowly accumulating runs through the day.

Jennings was the first wicket to fall, having added 14 more runs to his overnight total before edging a short ball from Rabada to gully. This brought out Joe Root, who together with Westley batted carefully through to the lunch break. Today’s innings from Westley showed great promise for people looking for a successor to Jonathan Trott at 3 for England. In a position where many pundits and fans would have wanted their batsmen to score quickly to leave more time to bowl out South Africa, Westley scored his 31 runs today at a glacial strike rate of 30. In an innings where he was the top scorer in England’s top 6 and in a game which his team is likely to win with at least a session to spare, Westley will likely be attacked for being too slow. You can’t get more like Trott than that.

After Lunch, England tried to increase the pace with mixed results. Westley added another 9 runs before being stumped after misreading a spinner from Maharaj, quickly followed by Root hitting a slog sweep straight to the man on the boundary and Malan being given out LBW on review after an inswinger from Morris. This has probably been a debut to forget for Dawid Malan, only scoring 11 runs and both dismissals being to similar full inswinging balls which he couldn’t get forward to. Between the three debutants, Malan seems the most vulnerable for being dropped in the next Test.

In a now familiar story England’s lower order outshone the specialist batsmen, scoring big runs and quickly. Stokes, Bairstow, Moeen, and Roland-Jones scored a combined 125 runs in the session from only 119 balls. When Bairstow lost his wicket for 63 just before Tea, England declared with a lead of 491.

With such a massive target, South Africa’s only hope was to bat out the evening session. Those hopes were given an early blow by Stuart Broad, who bowled Heino Kuhn in just the sixth over. Hashim Amla followed soon after, edging a delivery from Toby Roland-Jones to slip. In a remarkable statistical feat, Roland-Jones has dismissed Amla in all 3 international innings he has ever bowled, both innings of this game and an ODI before the Champions Trophy. Bunny doesn’t even begin to describe it.

In the very next over, Stokes took another two wickets from two balls. De Kock was bowled by a quick full ball, whilst du Plessis was given out LBW after not playing a shot for the second time in this game. Elgar and Bavuma negotiated the remaining 21 overs in the day without major incident, leaving England with six wickets to take tomorrow or South Africa with an incredibly unlikely 375 runs to score.

As always, comments on the game (or almost anything else) are welcome below.

The Third Test – Day 1

Before play started it was widely circulated that the injured Wood and Ballance would be replaced by Roland-Jones and Westley. Less certain was the fate of Liam Dawson, who had failed to impress with bat or ball in the previous two games despite being notionally considered England’s “number one spin bowler”. On one hand, the Oval has generally been considered helpful to spinners this season. On the other hand, Lord’s was very helpful to spinners and Dawson didn’t really justify his place in the team there.

That mystery was quickly resolved as Dawid Malan was handed his Test cap by Phil Tufnell in the pre-match huddle. England won the toss and chose to bat first, bringing Cook and Jennings to the crease. Cook started well against Morne Morkel but Keaton Jennings seemed hopelessly out of his depth whilst facing Vernon Philander at the other end. After managing to survive the previous 8 balls, Jennings inevitably edged his ninth ball to Elgar at third slip for a duck.

This brought out the first of England’s three debutants, Tom Westley. He appeared to be more confident and composed than Jennings, perhaps helped by Philander having to leave the field soon after with a “stomach bug”. Content to punish deliveries straying onto his legs, Westley and Cook built a partnership of 52 before a rain shower brought a premature end to the morning session.

Unfortunately after his promising start, Westley fell 4 balls into the session after edging a swinging ball by Chris Morris to du Plessis at second slip. This wicket brought together England’s two most experienced batsmen, Cook and Root. Together they fought against a very strong South African bowling spell, riding their luck at times until Root edged another swinging ball (this was very much the theme of the day) from Philander to de Kock.

England’s second debutant, Dawid Malan, did not seem as confident as Westley did earlier in the day. Malan batted out 14 dot balls before managing a single. Two balls later, he was bowled by a vicious inswinging yorker from Rabada which left Malan sprawled on the floor. Ben Stokes came in at 6, ahead of Jonny Bairstow, and together with Cook managed to last until tea. The tea break was extended due to another rain shower, and after that Cook and Stokes batted out 7 overs before dark clouds and rain brought an end to the day.

So the day ended with England at 171/4 and Alastair Cook unbeaten on 82*, in a prime position to score a vital century for England. Elsewhere in the team, things are looking less rosy. Jennings, Westley and Malan all failed to make decent scores, and will have to bat well in their next three innings to be confident of selection against the West Indies in August. Tomorrow England will hope that Cook, Stokes, Bairstow and Ali can wrest control of the match and take the total over 300, but this was very much South Africa’s day.

As always, please comment below.

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.

The New TV Deal – Winners And Losers

Yesterday, the ECB announced who won the broadcast rights to English cricket from 2020 to 2024. To no one’s surprise, the winners were Sky Sports and the BBC. The BBC will have up to 21 live T20 games plus international highlights and both radio coverage and online clips for all English cricket. Sky Sports have the rights for literally everything else to do with English cricket, as they do now. According to the Guardian’s Ali Martin, the new deals are worth around £1.1bn over 5 years or £220m per year, compared to the current deals of around £75m per year.

The Losers

The Counties – Barely two months ago, the counties signed away the majority of their bargaining power in exchange for £23.4m of a projected £40m increase in income from the new T20 league. Now it seems increasingly likely that, had they held off for another few months, they could easily have received twice as much just from keeping the same county structure as before. The ECB and Tom Harrison successfully made the counties so desperate by holding back their money that they voted themselves into pointlessness.

BT Sport – This could have been a massive coup for BT Sport, but the odds always seemed stacked against them. The ECB have a very close relationship with Sky Sports so BT were always at a disadvantage. BT can at least console themselves that they have pushed Sky to arguably overpay for cricket rights, meaning Sky might have less money to spend on other sports in the future.

Channel 5 – The FTA channel which has shown England’s highlights on Freeview for over a decade, they probably have good reason to feel snubbed that they weren’t seriously considered as the home for England’s free coverage from 2020. It’s rumoured that they bid more than the BBC too, rubbing salt into the wound.

The Fans – At the end of the day, every TV and sponsorship deal in sport is about taking money from the fans and giving it to the sport/players with the TV companies and sponsors making some profit as well. If more money is being paid, you can bet that costs will increase for fans somehow.

The Winners

The ECB/Tom Harrison – By almost every measure, these guys won. They achieved almost 90% of their £250m/year target, got the BBC as an active partner in promoting the sport generally and specifically the new T20 league, and they successfully neutered the counties so they probably won’t have to share most of the money with them. Whatever you think about these people (and seeing as you’re on this site, we can probably guess), this is a spectacular victory for them.

Sky Sports – They get to remain gatekeepers of English cricket, although they have paid quite a lot for the privilege. With reports on Tuesday that Sky were looking to rebrand Sky Sports 2 as Sky Sports Cricket (to go with the current Sky Sports F1 and planned Sky Sports Football and Golf channels), it suggested they were pretty confident about winning the rights from the ECB.

The BBC – The BBC got the rights to 21 live T20 games plus TV/online highlights and radio commentary at a fraction of the market value due to their massive reach. They have the most popular UK TV channels, radio stations and news website, and since Sky presumably offered more than enough money the ECB could afford to offer the BBC a discount.

Women’s Cricket – Of the 21 live T20 games the BBC will have rights for, 9 of them will be of women’s cricket; 1 T20I and 8 games from the Super League. The BBC also have the rights to show highlights of England women’s other internationals. Whilst a cynic might suggest that some of these will end up on the Red Button or streaming online, it’s still a massive increase in exposure for this side of the sport.

The Players – With such a massive increase in income, it’s a fair bet that the players will be getting a significant pay rise over the next few years. The relationship between the ECB and the PCA seems very amicable (too amicable, some might say) so a situation like Cricket Australia are having to deal with seems unlikely. That said, if the players don’t think they’re getting a fair share there could easily be a revolt.

Did I miss anyone out? As always, comments are welcome below.