Why is cricket so infatuated with the Powerplay?

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T20 Blast Final (via Sky Sports)

One of the more mundane revelations from the recently undertaken trials of The Hundred is that they’re going to have a Powerplay.

‘So what?’ you might think. But when all innovations seem to be on the table and the aim is to make the game as simple and straightforward as possible, this strikes us as odd. Is this how much Powerplays have come to be accepted as a fundamental part of limited overs cricket?

What’s a Powerplay?

‘Powerplay’ is an unjustifiably excitable way of saying ‘temporary change in the rules governing field settings’.

In the first 10 overs of a 50-over one-day international, you’re allowed a maximum of two fielders out on the boundary (technically ‘outside the circle’ but let’s not get into that); from overs 11-40 you’re allowed four; and in the last 10 overs you’re allowed five. At least two of these periods are Powerplays and probably all three. (We cannot be bothered looking this up).

In a T20 match, two fielders are allowed on the boundary for the first six overs and five after that. Maybe just the first one’s a Powerplay; maybe they both are – who honestly cares?

What’s the point of a Powerplay?

Fielding restrictions are tweaked in a bid to manipulate the behaviour of the players.

By moving most fielders closer, the idea is that the batsmen will seek boundaries rather than singles at a time when they’d otherwise be more likely to play conservatively. The general feeling is that runs are boring when they involve running, so the rule-makers engineer gaps to tempt batsmen into playing big shots.

It is also hoped that the bowling side will seek wickets rather than looking to ‘keep things tight’.

Do you really need to do this in a 100-ball game?

We honestly don’t know. There is a reason why cricket has Powerplays in all its shorter forms and that’s because when they didn’t exist batsmen played more cautiously.

But attitudes change. Players approach T20 batting with a certain abandon these days and with an innings in The Hundred being 17 per cent shorter, surely they’d approach that with even more of a gung-ho attitude.

Why not just have the same fielding rules throughout the innings so that no-one has to explain Powerplays to anyone? You wouldn’t have to have five fielders out at all times. You could have three or four.

Maybe it wouldn’t work, but if you’re trialling a whole bunch of rule changes for your funky new easy-to-understand competition, why wouldn’t you trial this?


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  1. Messrs DLS would prefer that the powerplay does not exist as it makes their job easier.

    In fact in the X10 form of the game (i.e. 10 balls) even DLS does not exist

  2. No fielders outside the circle. Make the circle the boundary.

    Think of all those lovely sponsored maximums!

      1. Maxima and Minima (singles).

        Interesting that they are keeping the value of a maximum at 6 when all other instances of 6 have been abolished from the game. Surely they considered making boundaries worth 5 and 10 to remove such risks of confusing the proletariat target audience?

  3. I think Powerplays still serve a purpose, especially in ODIs.

    But the idea that on the one hand the millions of thickos that the Hundred is aimed at struggle with the concept of the number 6, but on the other are going to get sucked into the details of a Powerplay does seem a bit of a mixed message. You either do this all in or you don’t. Why does a ball pitching outside leg stump mean it can’t be LBW?

    Realise that sounds a bit sniffy, but having seen how great Finals Day was at the weekend it just seems strange to do a watered down version of that. Either keep it and market it better, or if that really is no good for appealing to the masses (and maybe it isn’t, I’m not exactly unbiased) then change it properly. At the moment I’m struggling to see what is different other than banning mention of the word “over”.

    1. Why does a ball pitching outside leg stump mean it can’t be LBW?

      Stop it! Stop it right now! You know what undermines all of society’s great institutions? Questions. I mean, not like that one just there – sneaky questions, insidious questions, clever questions. Is there a god? Why are you king? Why can’t we see Jimmy Savile’s hands on that photo?

      And now this. Just accept that this is the way it is, otherwise you will bring the whole crumbling edifice down on us. And if you won’t shut up voluntarily, I have an auto-da-fé set up and ready to go. We will not go down without a fight, or at least a few charred heretics littering the path.

  4. I still don’t quite understand The Hundred, if I’m honest – is the idea that there’s currently a huge untapped market which is mainly put off by things like the concept of an over, or the batsmen crossing when the ball’s in the air before a dismissal, or are the ECB simply tinkering with these types of rules “while the hood’s up” (to use a phrase often heard in the office)?

    1. Some years ago, a friend who worked in the pub trade told me that most of those country-themed pubs (South African, Aussie, American) are owned by the same firm, and that they plan to change the theme every two years, not because the new theme is better, but a new theme brings in the punters. People just think, “Oh, a new pub, I’ll give that a go.”

      1. I guess it’s partly also the same logic as Apple launching new iPhones – there are always a large group of people convinced that they absolutely have to get the new one, long before any of them can articulate the difference between the new one and the current one any more clearly than “it’s bigger/smaller than the last one”.

        That seems to be working out quite well for Apple though, so maybe this new iCricket XS is going to be a huge success.

        Of course, if it is a success (in terms of popularity with ‘the public’ at large), then those who were in favour of the more…esoteric innovations will claim it was the rule changes wot won it, as opposed to putting live coverage on free-to-air TV. After all, if free-to-air TV was the answer, then it would have been a horrible mistake to sell the rights to Tests to Sky, and that can’t possibly be the case, can it?

  5. For every batting powerplay, introduce a bowling powerplay. And I don’t mean the type where the captain of the bowling team decides that they can make it a bit easier for the batting side for the next 5 overs because they just got the two best batsmen out.

    Let the bowling team captain think that since they have just got the two best batsmen out, its time to go in for the kill. No restrictions on field placements, no limit to the number of bouncers every over, and overs bowled during the bowling power play don’t count toward the 10 over/bowler restriction.

    Imagine being able to bowl Steyn for 13 overs instead of 10. Or Anderson. Or Starc. As the bowling team captain, you’d love that.

      1. Yes, in a limited overs setting. And you’re absolutely right, there’s nothing wrong with it. Roll the rules out tomorrow imo

  6. Why is cricket so infatuated with the Powerplay?

    Because the makers and sellers of The Cricket wish that they were flogging The Ice Hockey instead?

    It’s that or The Netball. Or The Curling maybe, but I think they may be trying to get away from that.

    1. Yes, yes, yes. If this new format really is going to attract a new audience, it needs to emulate a sport like Ice Hockey.

      Significant transgressions on the field of play – e.g. having an additional fielder outside the circle in the wrong powerplay – should trigger a massive punch up between the two sides, with the crowd baying for blood or even ideally, joining in the affray amongst themselves in the stands.

      Family entertainment.

      1. Ged, you may have just described the ancient Viking game of Knattle-whatever, played on frozen ice during holidays & fairs.

        Here is a description from the wikipedia page of this ‘sport’:

        “intimidation was a vital ingredient; several wars of words have been recorded in the old sagas. There were penalties and a penalty box.”


      2. I’m hearing a famous pugnacious international cricketer, who we shall refer to only as Den Crokes, has been approached to be the marketing face of this game, Ged.

  7. I am sorry KC, but I find many of your articles sort of meandering along making points and inciting a smile or so every fifth sentence on average. It would be a great idea to break every article of yours after about the third para and include a short paragraph EVERY WORD OF WHICH CONVEYS DEEP MEANING AND SIMULTANEOUSLY HILARIOUS SO IT KEEPS EVERYONE ON THE EDGE OF THE CHAIR/BED/BEANBAG.

    I suspect adopting such a strategy would bring new people to this website who don’t know they are missing such a writing style simply because it was non-existent in their lives. Think about the possibilities!

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