The ‘Cricket World Cup’ was the most searched keyword on Google in 2019 in India. The word ‘Super Over’ dominated the final day of the global event and the months that followed, generated a huge amount of discussions. The year 2020 will host both the Women’s and Men’s cricket T20 World Cup. Probably year 2020 will also host the most number of T20I matches in a calendar year. Living up to the build-up, last week witnessed three Super Overs in international T20 cricket in a span of four days. Two in the five match T20I series between India and New Zealand and one in the Tri-Series in Australia between Australia Women and England Women. Super Over and its earlier manifestation, Bowl-Out, have been an integral part of the shortest format of the game since its commencement in 2003. Here is a look back at the law and the events surrounding Super Over.
Super Over – A brief history
When T20 cricket was introduced, the governing bodies decided to have something fitting to decide a tied match. Bowl-Out – an idea drawn from football penalty shootout – was initially introduced to arrive at a result. The idea was to take five bowlers from each side to bowl at the unguarded stumps. Whichever team hits the most times wins the match. In case of a tie after the Bowl-Out, the bowling continues until a sudden death. It did not take long to witness a Bowl Out in T20 international cricket. The 5th international T20 match - between New Zealand and West Indies at Auckland in 2006 - ended in a tie. The Bowl-Out became a major talking point when the match between India and Pakistan in the inaugural World T20 in South Africa, 2007, ended in a tie. The murmurs and the grumbles against the Bowl-Out as a format started getting momentum as the arrangement did not involve the test of basic tenet of cricket - the bat against the ball. Fielders were not involved in the exercise. After three such Bowl-Out instances in T20 internationals in men’s cricket, the concept looked increasingly juvenile and unpopular that failed to provide the suspense and drama, on which the premise of T20 cricket was built. In June 2008, in the ICC Annual Conference, it was decided to replace the Bowl-Out with One Over Per Side Eliminator (OOPSE), popularly known as the Super Over.
Super Overs so far
In the Men’s T20 cricket there have been 138 matches so far that have ended in a tie. Super Over, true to its name has provided super entertainment ranging from Sunil Narine bowling a wicket maiden defending 11 runs for Guyana Amazon Warriors against Trinidad & Tobago Red Steel in the Caribbean Premier League 2014 to the recent incident of hit-man Rohit Sharma smashing two consecutive sixes to take India home when 10 runs were needed off 2 deliveries in Hamilton against New Zealand.
So far in the Men’s T20I, 18 matches have ended in a tie. Three of the tied matches have been decided by a bowl-out, 14 by a Super Over and one has been left as a tied match. In a match between Ireland and Scotland in Deventer on 17th June 2018, both the teams decided that there will be no Super Over to decide the match.
Women’s international T20 matches have witnessed 11 tied matches. West Indies Women have been involved in 5 tied matches whereas Australia, England and Pakistan women have been involved in 3 tied matches each.
Though Super Over is a match inside a match, the last over that causes the Super Over throws up some very interesting facet of the glorious game of uncertainties.
In a T20I against South Africa, Isuru Udana, the Lankan medium-fast bowler, was asked to bowl the last over of the match to defend 5 runs. JP Duminy and Dale Steyn were in the middle and Udana conceded just 4 runs and the match ended in a tie. Udana, thus holds the record of the least runs defended in the last over of a tied T20I.
On the other side of the spectrum, there have been two occasions when the bowler has conceded 15 runs in the last over, the most by a bowler to result in a Super Over - Ian Bradshaw against New Zealand in 2006 and James Neesham against England in 2019, both happen to take place at Eden Park, Auckland.
In a span of one and a half decade, tied matches have been synonymous with New Zealand. Not only New Zealand have hosted 6 tied T20Is so far, they have also been involved in the only Super Over in an ODI match - the final of the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2019.
India, England and Qatar are the teams that have been unbeaten in tied matches so far in T20Is (min. 2 matches). India have a clean record winning all three tied matches (one bowl-out against Pakistan and two Super Overs against New Zealand). England and Qatar also have a clean record in tied matches in T20Is.
Auckland is the uncontested capital of tied T20I games. When the Super Over was introduced in 2008 the first T20I match that ended in a tie was again New Zealand versus West Indies at Eden Park, Auckland. West Indies needed 7 runs in the last over to win the match. Tim Southee bowled a brilliant over conceding just 6 runs and picking up a wicket to tie the match. The Kiwi captain Daniel Vettori, who had a match figure of 3 for 16 in four overs chose to bowl himself in the Super Over. Chris Gayle hit him for 25 runs, which included 3 sixes and a four. 25 runs in that over still is a record for most runs conceded in a Super Over.
Like India, in the tied matches in T20Is, England also have a clean record. The credit goes solely to Chris Jordan. Thanks to Jordan’s vast experience in T20 bowling with plethora of variation and miserly bowling figures, England did not have to break a sweat on both occasions. Bowling first in the Super Over against Pakistan at Sharjah, Jordan conceded just 3 runs (1 batted run) and picked up a wicket. Bowling 2nd in the Super Over against New Zealand at Auckland to defend 17 runs, he conceded 8 runs and scalped 1 wicket.
As the T20 game is evolving rapidly and teams are evolving with their team combinations and strategy, it is highly likely that this year will witness teams increasing their focus on super over planning and approach.