Revisiting formal time
Russell Degnan

The issue of over rates in Test cricket is one of those periodic issues that engenders more hang wringing than fixes, and more articles than effects on the game itself. Nevertheless, as my thinking on it has evolved since the last time I wrote on it, and as Liam Cromar has proposed a possible solution it is worth revising.

In the main, Cromar is correct: the current regime of fines and possible suspensions has little effect on the match at hand, and it has broader negative effects he didn't mention. Not least, the sight of part-time trundlers ripping through overs to get the rate up, in lieu of the competition at hand.

But I am less convinced by the broader structure of "90 overs in a day" that is the rule, but so regularly breached that the official close is now effectively 6:30pm.

Firstly, the placing penalty runs on the bowling side is likely to cause some problems at the margin, as batsmen - who regularly block an over at the interval if they can avoid one - slow play just enough to earn an unjust penalty. The current measurement, over a whole Test match, allows for some adjustment and leniency, but it is harder to do that within a match context.

Unintended consequences being what they are, any penalty runs approach probably shouldn't be working with a fixed number of overs in mind. Especially given question marks over the number itself.

Secondly, it isn't clear that 90 overs in a day is regularly possible, and may even not be desirable, if it means preventing pace bowlers from operating. The walking pace of an adult striding, but not exerting themselves is 6km per hour, 100m per minute, or 1.6m per second. A 30m runup therefore, with a 10m follow-through, requires some 24 seconds to complete, another 10 to run in from plus the play itself (5-10 seconds). That's 45 second per ball, or four and a half minutes per over; 30 seconds longer than allowed. Add in drinks, changing ends, and wickets and it becomes clear that we need a better understanding of what is taking all that time.

Were it cricket seasons, I'd provide that, as precise timing of these can be done at the ground, and would be useful if someone wanted to shave time to speed up the game. Read these as estimates as a starting point.

Pace BowlerSpin BowlerChange of EndsDrinksWicketsReplaysChange of Innings
Walk to mark5 x 255 x 101 x 302 x 301 x 1201 x 201 x 600
Setting field5 x 15 x 11 x 102 x 301 x 60-1 x 60
Action6 x 17.56 x 7.5---1 x 180-
Combined Time23510040120180200660
Occurences per day6030873860.6
Time per day141003000348036014401200400

That amounts to a total time of 23,980 seconds or 400 minutes. Hence, a typical, if interesting, day is expected to take 6 hours 40 minutes. Accounting for a few extra minutes at the end of each session (already begun overs), it is possible to squeeze in 90 overs a day, but the emphasis is on squeeze. More likely, the ideal of 90 overs in a 6 hour day is unrealistic outside Asia where spinners will operate for much longer.

Thirdly, it isn't clear why 90 overs is the aim, or the standard. From the 1980s onwards, once four pace bowlers, and little medium pace, became the norm, the rate dropped to 13.5 overs per hour (81 overs per day), where it has stubbornly remained. The early 1990s had over rates in the mid-70s during West Indies vs Australia series - one of the ABC almanacks lamented the pace. But the matches themselves weren't overly changed - certainly most finished on the fourth or fifth day.

The true question is whether the game is moving, and interesting. Excessive drink breaks, glove changes, field setting, team meetings, pointless delays around rain or light, and frivolous umpire referrals are a bigger problem than the actual rate of play. "Cricket time" depends on the flow of the match, the approach of each side, and the state of play. What matters is that the umpires keep the players playing. Which is why I'd suggest an alternative approach.

Relying on players to police the clock, as with any rule falling under the spirit of cricket, will be more often broken than enforced. Players are not Gentleman, and a simple set of time rules, enforced by the umpire, would bring cricket into line with other sports - such as baseball, or tennis - that (despite lacking any need for a clock) maintain a strict schedule for the fans.

In my opinion, only four time checks are all that is needed, for both batsman and bowler to comply with:

  • A maximum of 180 seconds to be ready after a wicket.
  • A maximum of 30 seconds to bowl after the previous ball goes dead.
  • A maximum of 60 seconds to change between overs, or 120 seconds for a change of bowler
  • The bowling side would also be given four 60 second timeouts per session, the batting side two, to talk tactics or obtain a drink

Other breaks, such as drinks or replays are at the discretion of the umpire already, but they should be prodded to keep them moving.

If players are playing too slowly, then a series of warnings can operate - relayed via the third umpire, who can watch the clock, if he perceives that they are taking too long:

  1. First warning, no penalty
  2. Second warning, five run penalty
  3. Third and subsequent warnings, five run penalty and batsman dismissed, or bowler removed from the attack

These are harsh, but not excessive, as a lot of time wasting occurs in close matches, and the first warning is sufficient to lay down a line for general slow play.

The fines, suspensions and expectations that a bowling captain will watch the over rate while trying to captain will disappear (as will the complaints about over rates). But most importantly, play will continue, at the pace it ought, unless a team asks for it to stop. And players would quickly adjust to the reality of a fixed time to make field changes, or have conversations, as they do, already, in making DRS referrals.

Cricket - Articles 5th August, 2016 01:03:42   [#] 


Allow 6-day matches, where possible
Hi Russell,

Excellent suggestions regarding the four time checks.

I, personally, am not sure about the 5 runs penalty. First, it seems like an arbitrary number. Secondly, it may or may not be significant to affect the match result.

I like the idea to batsman or bowler being dismissed. Its what we do in street cricket. And its a very potent threat.

Also, I would like to mention the 6-day match proposal. As you know, even 80-overs a day may not be possible in Asian winters. So, a 25-overs * 3-sessions * 6-days approach will not only ease the pressure on the players, but will also allow the match to produce a result.

Saleem Basit  5th August, 2016 19:11:16  

Revisiting formal time
Thanks Saleem. 5 run penalties are standard, so the amount reflects the umpiring signal for penalties generally. It doesn't need to affect the result to matter, as it is poor form to receive one (or put you closer to real penalties). During time-wasting in a close chase it will; not for a batsman but again, they only get so many chances.

The day argument is one I'm currently ambivalent about. It will depend, a lot, on day/night cricket, I suspect, whether they push for four days, or longer reserve periods to finish play. As you say, an Asian winter has some limitations that don't apply in Australia or England.
Russ  6th August, 2016 14:54:44