Club Cricket Conference

Friday, 10th July 2020

MCC panel says Test over-rates should be timed

By Charles Randall

20 March 2019

The time has come for a timing clock to appear on electronic scoreboards and force up over-rates in Test matches, according to the MCC World Cricket Committee.

The MCC-sponsored opinion group of eminent players met in Bengaluru, India, recently and suggested this way of removing a blight on the game.  ICC statistics since May 2018 showed that over-rates had fallen to 13.77 per hour, the slowest average in 11 years.

This partly explained the declining interest in Test cricket, because an MCC survey among 13,000 cricket enthusiasts in more than 100 countries showed that this format still held the most interest while identifying slow over-rates as a major turn-off for spectators.

The World Cricket Committee, chaired by Mike Gatting, made other recommendations such as using one standard brand of ball for all matches in the World Test Championship and introducing a free hit for no-balls in Test matches, as in one-day games.

The MCC panel had long been concerned about the pace of play in Tests, and 25 per cent of survey respondents from England, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa - where spin-bowling is less favoured - mentioned the detrimental effect of slow over rates. The full 90 overs are sometimes still not bowled in a day, even with the extra 30 minutes.

While the Decision Review System (DRS) was partly responsible for delays, it was felt that players needed to show more urgency. One could add that, as with golf's new rules, there should be a brand of 'ready cricket' with more forward planning on the field.

The MCC panel recommended that a timer, visible on the scoreboard, should count down from 45 seconds from the call of "over".  This time would be increased to 60 seconds for a new batsman on strike and 80 seconds for a change of bowler. If either side failed to beat the clock, they would receive a warning. Further infringements in that innings would incur five penalty runs awarded to the opposition. This would be consistent with Law 41.9 (Time wasting by the fielding side) and 41.10 (Batsman wasting time).

Variables for timing would include the DRS, the distance from the dressing rooms to the pitch and drinks breaks, but batsmen and fielders should be in position before the clock counts down to  zero.

The panel said that during DRS reviews, the standard protocol should be cut short as soon as the television production team is aware that the batsman will be not out. For example, time is often spent trying to discern an inside edge for lbws, only to see  that the ball was missing the stumps. As soon as the ball tracking has been loaded, if it will result in a not out decision, the third umpire should be informed immediately for the decision to be relayed to the pitch umpires.

The MCC panel's recommendations carry a certain weight with the ICC.

MCC World Cricket Committee (not necessarily attending)
Mike Gatting (chairman), John Stephenson (MCC head of cricket), Shakib Al Hasan, Suzie Bates, Ian Bishop, Kumar Dharmasena, Sourav Ganguly, Tim May, Brendon McCullum, Ricky Ponting, Ramiz Raja, Kumar Sangakkara, Vince van der Bijl, Shane Warne.