Thursday, January 17, 2008

No no-balls?

Talking about the poor over-rates in the current Australia-India Test, Sambit Bal suggests run penalties (a move I strongly disagree with), giving as justification: "See how no-balls have become scarce in Twenty20 after they introduced the free hit."

There have been 50 T20I's, and in these matches, the average rate of no-balls has been 2,45 per 300 balls. In all ODI's, the average rate is 2,94 per 300 balls. So it does appear that the threat of a free-hit is causing at least some bowlers to stop pushing the popping crease. (Note that those figures aren't just front-foot no-balls, but also include illegal bouncers and so on.)

A more detailed look at no-ball rates in ODI's is revealing, however. Here is a graph showing a 49-match moving average no-ball rate (per 300 balls).

(Every match classified by the ICC as an ODI is included, even the silly Asia v Africa games, etc. Some of the spike around February 2007 is caused by the associate nations, whose bowlers lacked some front-foot discipline in their lead-up tournaments to the World Cup.)

A dramatic dip started about a month before the World Cup, and now we're at the lowest level of no-balling in ODI history — it's lower than the rate in T20I's. Is it just a random blip that will right itself in the next year or two, or is it something else? I'd like to think that, as bowlers started becoming more conservative with the position of their front feet (from playing T20 matches), they decided that any small advantage gained from getting really close to the popping crease is outweighed by the risk of a no-ball.

In Test matches, the effect is not so dramatic, but we do seem to be close to a minimum for the front-foot no-ball era.

Something to keep an eye on, anyway. It could just be a blip.

hi David... those numbers looked interesting because I was of the belief that the free hit had indeed considerably reduced no-balls, though am totally against penalizing bowlers who are already robbed of everything good for them.

Apparently, many in the umpires/ref panel had passed their views that fining them did not bring much effect in containing this problem. So what do you feel can be done about this, especially in a test match. A huge or 100% match fees cut?
Am adding you to my roll... cheers
In Test matches I'm happy with the system as is, though I would rather that the front-foot no-balls be called electronically, so that umpires don't have to look down before suddenly looking up to judge LBW shouts etc.

In ODI's I'd be happy to bring in the free hit as in T20, but I don't really care too much. It's not as though it's a problem part of the game: a bowler over-steps, he concedes a run and an extra ball. Fines might be useful as an "in-team" method of discipline, but that's all.
I agree on the electronic no-balls calls... just like tennis... makes a lot of sense and quite foolproof.
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