The MCC World Cricket committee (WCC) has today renewed its calls for measures aimed at speeding up the pace of play, particularly in Test matches.
After the topic was a key discussion point on the agenda at the WCC meeting earlier this year, held via conference call in January, a research project was launched and the findings of the research were discussed at the latest meeting, which took place at Lord’s in July. It was the first time the WCC had been able to meet in person since prior to the pandemic.
The topic of pace of play in international matches has been discussed at length at previous meetings, and various outcomes and options have already been communicated.
The WCC has now revisited its calls for measures aimed at speeding up play to be introduced, particularly in Test Matches, whereby the target of number of overs to be bowled in the day is consistently not reached.
The committee has historically been concerned about the pace of play and this was highlighted as a wider problem by the cricket-watching public in MCC’s Test Cricket survey, the results of which were reported at a previous meeting.
The research into the pace of play took place at matches played in the first half of the English summer, during England’s three Test Matches against New Zealand. The same research was carried out at LV= County Championship matches at the same grounds, to compare the data.
The WCC then reviewed the research in the most recent meeting at Lord’s to discuss the outcomes and viable proposals on the topic to submit to the ICC.
"We have little doubt that there are a number of areas where time can be saved, without adversely affecting the quality of play"
Mike Gatting, Chair of MCC World Cricket committee, said: “We have been concerned about declining over rates for some years and whilst we have produced several proposals and options in the past, we felt that now was the right time to launch our research project to be able to produce some tangible data on where time is being lost.
“We note that the ICC has enacted quite strong penalties for captains and teams, but it does not appear to have had the desired impact as over rates are consistently slow and decreasing.
“We have little doubt that there are a number of areas where time can be saved, without adversely affecting the quality of play, and we hope that by eradicating some of the reasons as to why over rates are slow, that we will encourage audiences, improve the look of the game and increase the profile of Test cricket on a global basis.”
Key findings from the research project include:
- There were on average, approximately 31.5 minutes lost on each day’s play across the Test series, when compared to a day’s play in the County Championship (which itself could be faster) which consisted of the following:
- Time lost between overs – over ~ 20 minutes
- DRS/Umpire reviews – ~ 4 minutes
- Ball changes/checks – ~ 3 minutes
- Equipment changes – ~ 2.5 minutes
- Sightscreens/movement – ~ 2 minutes
- There were approximately 20 more minutes lost from every day of Test cricket compared to the first-class matches analysed at the same grounds, purely due to change of overs.
- The average change between overs in Test cricket took 10-15 seconds longer than in County Championship cricket. These averages are lengthened by certain protracted changes, but the average “standard” change of over (without a new bowler or batter) was 55 seconds in Tests and 45 seconds in county cricket. The quickest recorded change in a Test Match was 34 seconds.
- In Tests, drinks are taken on the hour, with the average break 3.5 minutes. There are a total of 7-10 minutes lost per day, however drinks are taken at scheduled times regardless of what has happened in the previous hour e.g. even if wickets/reviews meant drinks had been taken recently.
- There were approximately 64 minutes lost during the series to the Decision Review System (DRS), which consisted of the following:
- Player discussions where no review was taken – 6 minutes
- Player reviews – 47 minutes
- Umpire reviews – 11 minutes
- It took an average of 25 seconds for the fielding side to be ready to bowl the next ball after the DRS had confirmed an umpire’s Not out decision.
- On average, four minutes were lost on each day’s play for DRS reviews.
- Ball checks and changes averaged between two and four minutes per day of lost time.
- Batters changing gloves or 12th Men bringing on helmets resulted in lots of delays. Such changes caused delays of around two and a half minutes each day in Tests, which was 90 seconds more than in County Championship cricket.
Some suggestions for ICC consideration, on reviewing data from the research, include:
- In general, ICC playing regulations be reviewed to tighten the parameters around when substitutes are permitted onto the field of play i.e. with gloves, drinks etc.
- More specifically, when a Not Out decision is reviewed by the fielding side (or when an umpire review is made with a Not Out soft signal), the fielding team should immediately return to their positions, ready to bowl the next delivery. Batters should also remain in the proximity and prepare to recommence play. No drinks should be brought onto the field. If the decision is overturned to Out, the fielding side will still have time to celebrate.
- A review of DRS protocols. During DRS reviews, the standard protocol should be cut short as soon as the TV production team is aware that it 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 TV umpire should be informed immediately.
- Drinks intervals should be taken immediately if a wicket falls or a DRS review is made within 15 minutes of their scheduled time and not re-taken at the top of the hour, or at the next scheduled break.
- Players should be encouraged to play “ready cricket” at all times, which would include the bowler and fielders being in position when a new batter arrives at the crease.
- Umpires and match referees to be more proactive at speeding up play and enforcing Laws 41.9 and 41.10, which provide a warning for the first offence, followed by the award of Penalty runs for deliberate slow play. Committee members felt that ‘in-game’ penalties, in combination with existing sanctions, will assist with the speeding up of play.
Jamie Cox, Assistant Secretary (Cricket & Operations) at MCC, said: “Whilst we recognise that there are often unforeseen stoppages in the modern game, for the benefit of the spectator – both those in the Ground and watching on TV - we call on the players and officials to take measures which will see more overs being bowled each day, to bring about an improvement in the general look of the game.
"In appreciation of the relatively small sample-size to date, MCC would also be willing to undertake further research and analysis in this area"
“We believe that strong enforcement of the existing Laws would assist with this, as well as simple and sensible measures on drinks breaks and DRS reviews.
“In appreciation of the relatively small sample-size to date, MCC would also be willing to undertake further research and analysis in this area, so that we are able to provide further recommendations for improving the pace of play. Such measures could include the use of a use of a countdown clock between overs and the on-going assessment of the DRS process, to ensure players and umpires remain vigilant on moving the game forward”.