Sunday, December 16, 2007

Over rates

I like to watch cricket. In particular, on any given day I want as much cricket as possible (unless Australia are trying to save a draw, in which case I am happy for it to rain). As a direct consequence of this, I don't like slow over rates. Slow over rates are a blight on the modern game. I get really annoyed at teams ambling through 13 overs an hour, and not getting close to 90 overs by the compulsory stumps half an hour after the scheduled stumps time. Some people blame the TV networks for depriving them of the extra bit of cricket, but to me the blame lies squarely with the bowling team.

It never used to be so, as you will see in the graph below. I've taken all Test innings of at least 120 legal balls for which I have minutes data, calculated the over rate (converting to six-ball overs if necessary), and plotted this against the calendar year of the Test.

The decline in over rates is striking, though we can be thankful for the small mercy that it seems to have bottomed out in the last 20odd years. Before 1954, there was never an innings in which the over rate was less than 15 per hour. (Well, it's possible that there might have been and I just don't have the time data for it, but this timescale is at least fairly accurate.) England was the first team to dip under the 15 mark (and indeed bowled the first six such innings), but it's not fair to single them out - the trend had already started a year after the end of the War.

The fastest ever:

Team Opp Test no. Balls Rate Year
WI Aus 642 710 27,10 1968
WI Eng 323 851 26,93 1950
Eng WI 323 488 26,81 1950
Ind NZ 418 348 26,77 1955
Aus Eng 42 1090 26,52 1894
Eng Ind 520 567 26,01* 1962
Aus Eng 43 1214 26,00 1895
Aus Eng 179 1099 25,74 1929
Eng Aus 9 320 25,60 1882
Eng WI 1259 144 23,61 1994
Ind NZ 1107 472 20,00 1988

*: Anomalous data

Those last two innings are the only times the over rate has been 20 or above since 1980.

That Test number 42 you see up there is one of the greatest of all time: it is the Sydney Test that saw Australia lose after enforcing the follow-on.

The first match on that list is the first Test between Australia and the West Indies in 1968. At stumps day 3, the Windies were 7/298. Australia took 73 minutes to take the remaining three wickets on day four, and ended up chasing 366. The West Indies attack, led by Sobers (33.6-12-73-6), then dismissed Australia in 88.6 eight-ball overs, bowled in less than four and a half hours! The Test didn't need to go into the fifth day.

At the other extreme we have England's un-effort on a rainy day to lose the Ashes in 2001.

Team Opp Test no. Balls Rate Year
Eng Aus 1554 176 9,12 2001
WI Pak 1157 242 10,66 1990
Pak NZ 1153 353 10,83 1990
WI Ind 1085 276 10,87 1987
WI Pak 1158 296 10,88 1990
Eng WI 1143 408 10,91 1990
Eng WI 635 180 10,91 1968
WI Ind 1039 268 10,98 1986
Eng WI 1144 725 11,33 1990

The latter innings is the one with the slowest over rate with at least 540 balls bowled (i.e., 90 six-ball overs).

You might be wondering about the asterisk and "anomalous data" up in the first table. To calculate innings times, I re-constructed the innings partnership by partnership, finding the length of time for each. An easier way to calculate it (when there is data for every batsman) is to sum up all the batsmen's minutes and divide by 2. Usually, these agree pretty closely, but for a handful of innings (about 40 or 50), the difference is over 15 minutes.

Edit: It's probably worth pointing out that although I have presented the over rates above to two decimal places, the second decimal place is probably not significant, beause most of the total innings times are only sure to within a few minutes.

Interesting stuff as usual. I will check back, but I assume that the 1990 test between England and West Indies that featured the very low rate was the one that the West Indies managed to draw after slowing the game down to almost a standstill.
Actually the one I have listed there is from a different Test in that series. But thanks for pointing the draw out! I had skipped it because Gooch retired hurt and my search threw away any innings with retired hurts (I was lazy, and couldn't be bothered taking them into account when doing partnership times).

But now that I look at it, the West Indies over rate in that innings was 9.75 overs per hour, which makes it the second slowest ever, barring any other innings where a batsman retired hurt, at least.
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