Cricket: The practical exam for 2019

Raymond Chen

A few days ago, I summarized the rules of cricket for the casual viewer, and the recently-completed 2019 Cricket World Cup finals were quite a practical exam. The match ended in a tie, which is highly unlikely. It forced a super-over, which itself also ended in a tie, which is highly unlikely. The winner was then decided by comparing in-game statistics.¹

None of that super-over and ultimate tie-breaker stuff was covered in my quick summary because, c’mon, it never happens.

Except when it happens.

A circumstance I lumped under “For various offenses” played a role in the final moments of the match as well: A fielder threw the ball out of bounds (caused by a deflection off a batsman’s bat). This is a four-run award in addition to the runs that had already been scored, or were about to score. Not only did this award runs that New Zealand could scarcely afford to concede, the number of times the ball goes out of bounds (boundaries) is the primary statistic in the ultimate tie-breaker. Really bad luck for the Kiwis, losing on a fluke play like this.

My quick summary of the rules wasn’t really enough to allow you to fully appreciate the insanity of how that match finished, a match which is already being described as “the most dramatic match in cricket history.”


You can watch a summary of the match here.

At the 10-second mark of that video is an LBW review, which apparently has gotten all high-tech, but remains just as controversial as ever. The ball missed the bat and struck the batsman’s leg. The umpire ruled this as leg-before-wicket, meaning that the ball would have hit the wicket if the batsman were not standing in the way. The batting team appealed, and the computer simulation projected that the ball would have missed the wicket by a small margin. The appeal was therefore upheld, and the umpire’s call was reversed.

Bonus chatter: Cricket statistics are a whole chapter unto themselves. The score was given as New Zealand 241/8 to England 241. This was a limited-overs match, so this means (I hope I get this right) that New Zealand scored 241 runs and gave up 8 outs, while England scored 241 runs and used up all of their outs. If a team uses up all 10 of its outs, then you don’t write “/10”; that’s the default.

The other statistics are a complete mystery to me. They’re just a jumble of numbers.

¹ As explained on Hang Up and Listen, it’s as if Game 7 of the NBA finals were tied after regulation, were tied again after overtime, then declared the winner to be the team that made the most three-point shots.


Discussion is closed. Login to edit/delete existing comments.

  • davis 0

    Re bonus chatter: New Zealand “lost 8 wickets” and hence were 241/8 at the end of their 50 overs (or 8/241 in Australia which does things backwards). England were 241 “all out”. Even more unusually, England tied the match and were all out on the last ball of their innings (in cricket “innings” is always plural).

    Maybe also relevant are the conventions about describing the victory margin (“by ‘x’ runs” if the first team batting wins, “by ‘y’ wickets” if the team batting second [“chasing”] wins). But again not relevant to this match because it was a tie settled by countback.

    • Neil Rashbrook 0

      If England had made 242 on the last ball of their innings, would they have been described as winning by 1 wicket despite a) losing more wickets than New Zealand b) remaining wickets not actually affecting the result in any way, except to cause the innings to end before 50 overs have been bowled?

      • Sacha Roscoe 0

        In short: yes. It’s because the number of wickets remaining isn’t important for scoring that a team can be described as winning by one wicket even if they lost more wickets – you’re not competing against the other team’s wicket count, you’re competing againt their effort to get all of your wickets.

        In the original long-format game, there is no restriction on the number of overs, so the number of wickets the second team has left is the best indication of how close the game was; if they only had one wicket left then it was very close indeed. For limited-overs matches, this isn’t really sufficient – you know that if they only had one wicket left it was definitely close, but what if they won off the last ball with 8 wickets left? That was also pretty close. So for limited overs matches it’s common (but not universal) to also indicate how far through the alloted overs they were, e.g. “won by 2 wickets (with 32 balls remaining)”, or “won by 5 wickets (37.3 overs)”.

  • Paradice . 0

    Some of the rules of cricket are so arcane, even the umpires on the field for the world cup final (supposedly the two best umpires in the world) got it wrong: the situation you mentioned where the deflection off the batsman caused an additional four runs to be awarded – this gave England a total of 6 runs for the ball, which was actually incorrect. Under the laws of the game, you only take runs already completed *at the time the fielder last touches the ball prior to it crossing the boundary* and add four to that total. Instead, the way it was handled was treated as *the number of runs completed at the time the ball crossed the boundary*.
    This turned out to be critical in the game as, had it been awarded as 5 instead of 6, the other (far less skilled) batsman from England would have had to face the last ball, and England would have needed 3 from it instead of 2. Very likely, this would have been a New Zealand victory instead of an England one. 
    The only thing the New Zealand team can say is “well, I guess that particular mistake will never happen again”, because that rule is now planted solidly into the minds of every player and umpire as a result of this umpiring mistake in the world cup final.

    • Raymond ChenMicrosoft employee 0

      According to this copy of the laws, the batting team is credited for “the runs completed by the batsmen, together with the run in progress if they had already crossed at the instant of the throw or act.” I rewatched the video, and it appears that they had not yet crossed at the time of the throw, so even with this more generous allowance, it seems that the extra run was improperly awarded. But what do I know. I just started watching this game. (Baseball has a similar technicality, where some awards are based on the runners’ locations at the time of the pitch, and others at the time of the throw.)

  • Chris Long 0

    The cricket world has always been extremely stats-heavy, moreso than any other European sport that I know of (I suspect baseball is pretty similar in North America). One of the earliest web sites I remember using, back in the days when there weren’t many to choose from, was CricInfo, launched in March 1993. It was basically a massive cricket stats database. It was acquired by ESPN and is now called ESPNcricinfo (

    In those days, a surfing session was either that, the CIA World Fact Book or HampsterDance.

  • Richard Hsu 0

    Another interesting twist that went England’s way is the catch close to the boundary at the 48th over. It was caught but the fielder stepped on the rope so the batsman was not out and 6 runs was awarded.

    Had the New Zealand fielder (Boult) not held on to the ball as he was stepping backwards to the rope, but deflected it in midair to the other fielder (Guptill) and Guptill caught it, Stokes would have been out (he was the established batsman), England would not get any runs, they would be 8 wickets down, have two new batsmen with a target of 22 runs off 8 balls. I am guessing the Kiwis could relate to Roger Federer after loss.

    It also showed the classy side of Cricket, as Guptill immediately signalled six to the umpire.

    In a way, Cricket is my Old New Thing. Growing up in Kolkata (India), I watched, and played Cricket casually. Then 14 years ago, I moved to Canada and stopped following it completely. The last match I remember watching was two World Cups ago in 2011 when India won. This world cup got me back into following Cricket and India team through the World Cup. It was a dissapointing loss for India but I enjoyed watching it and sharing the excitement with my son. It was refreshing to watch a low scoring semi-finals game with the added drama of rain delays and Duckworth-Lewis-Stern coming into consideration [perhaps a future blog for you :)].

    It was a pleasure to read about Cricket from you. Thank you.

Feedback usabilla icon