Thursday, August 07, 2014

Over Rates In Cricket

I've resisted writing this post for a very long time. But I continue to be amazed by how many professional observers are utterly unaware of the ICC's over rate law. They invariably do a simple division of the number of overs bowled in a day by 6, and then express outrage when the number is about 10% less than 15.

This post is intended as a catalog of instances of professional observers indulging in this wrong over-rate arithmetic (see explanation below for why it is so). I will update it as and when I find such observations. If you find such instances, please leave a comment and i'll add them to this post. It is among the most interesting blind spots prevalent among commentators and cricket writers today. The reasons for this are worthy of a separate post. All I want to do here is to keep a record of writers saying things about over rates, and explain how the over rate is actually calculated.

I'll start with two examples. They are by no means the only two, but they've been at this today.

Lawrence Booth, the Editor of the Wisden Almanack, towards the end of play on Day 1 at Old Trafford:
"Ten overs to be bowled in 12 minutes - and we have another stoppage..."
A few minutes later:

Andy Zaltzman, to his nearly 50,000 twitter follows:
"Only 82 overs bowled in the day. Why does the ICC allow this? (a) No reason. (b) Because they don't care. (c) Both (a) and (b). Your call."

It is not a mystery. Nor is it a secret. The method for calculating over rates is available freely on the very same internet which contains twitter. The ICC's specification for over-rates is given in Law 16.3 as amended by the ICC in their Test Match Playing Conditions. The ICC does not "allow" low over rates to go unpunished. In fact, it is one of the few aspects of the Code of Conduct which is relatively simple to quantify, and is.

Very simply, if a team scores 70/4 in 25 overs in a 2 hour session of play, the bowling team's over rate for that session is not 12.5 overs per hour. The over rate is a derived figure, not a measured figure. Assuming that there are no stoppages other than when a wicket falls and a drinks break, the overrate for this session of play would be calculated as follows:
1. 2 minutes would be allowed for each wicket. A total of 8 minutes for 4 wickets.
2. 4 additional minutes would be allowed for a drinks break, provided the drinks break was not taken at the fall of a wicket.

So, if a drinks break occurred immediately after a wicket, then 10 minutes would be deducted for the purpose of the over rate calculation. If a drinks break was taken separately, 12 minutes would be deducted. Assuming no further stoppages (broken bats, ball changes, repairs to the bowling run up, repairs to the sight screen, third umpire reviews, DRS reviews, injuries etc.), the over rate for the said session would be either 13.6 or 13.8 overs per hour.

The ICC deserves scrutiny in plenty of areas. But professional reporters who make a living reporting on cricket ought to know the rules.

Here is the relevant portion of the law in full. I can only conclude that Mr. Booth and Mr. Zaltzman read exactly one sentence of this law, the first, and then inexplicably stopped reading.

England bowled 47 overs in about 10 minutes short of 2 full sessions (Tea was scheduled at 4:10pm, but was taken early around 3:55 - 4:00pm as soon as India were bowled out). In this, they had 2 drinks breaks and took 10 wickets. That accounts for 26 minutes (the final wicket doesn't count here). Remove 26 minutes out of 3 hours and 50 minutes, and for the purpose of the overrate calculation, India were bowled out in less than 3 1/2 hours. As a result, no account is taken of England's overrate under Law 16.3 of the playing conditions.

In any event, Mr. Booth's contention that England's over rate was 12.15 overs per hour is simply wrong. The "over rate" he refers to there has nothing to do with the actual over-rate. England's over-rate was about 13.7 overs per hour (ignoring any breaks other than wickets and drinks breaks).
16.3 Minimum Over Rates 
The minimum over rate to be achieved in Test Matches will be 15 overs per hour. 
The actual over rate will be calculated at the end of the match by the umpires and will be the average rate which is achieved by the fielding team across both of the batting team’s innings.
In calculating the actual over rate for the match, allowances will be given as follows:
Standard test match playing conditions
16.3.1 The time lost as a result of treatment given to a player by an authorised medical personnel on the field of play;
16.3.2 The time lost as a result of a player being required to leave the field as a result of a serious injury;
16.3.3 The time taken for all third umpire referrals and consultations and any umpire or player reviews;
16.3.4 The time lost as a result of time wasting by the batting side; and
16.3.5 The time lost due to all other circumstances that are beyond the control of the fielding side.
16.3.6 2 minutes per wicket taken, provided that such wicket results in the subsequent batsmen immediately commencing his innings. For the avoidance of any doubt, no time allowance will be given for the final wicket of an innings or where a wicket falls immediately prior to any interval;
16.3.7 4 minutes per drinks break taken (one per session).
In the event of any time allowances being granted to the fielding team under 16.3.4 above (time wasting by batting team), then such time shall be deducted from the allowances granted to such batting team in the determination of its over rate.  If a side is bowled out in 31/2 hours or less (taking into account all of the time allowances set out above) in any particular innings, no account will be taken of the actual over rate in that innings when calculating the actual over rate at the end of the match.