Cricket Australia missing the point
3:48 PM November 10
Cricket Australia (CA) needs to refine its playing conditions regarding bonus points in domestic one-day cricket or risk a controversy that it will find hard to win.
The increasing role of mathematics needed to work out scoring scenarios and allocation of points in the limited overs game demands clarity with the rules and how they are enforced.
CA's guidelines for bonus points in the domestic one-day competition are ambiguous to a point where they would struggle to survive a challenge from an angry state body.
And it all has to do with maths - and in a sense - English.
The words used by CA to set down its playing conditions for bonus points do not aptly described what it intends to achieve.
Combine that with someone sharp enough to crunch the numbers properly and you have a problem.
Understanding this problem is a complicated process, but then again, understanding the laws and regulations of cricket can be a game of nitpicking and nuance.
The complication of the matter, however, does not make it any less important.
When you consider it has the potential to decide the difference between a team making the competition final or not, it becomes of the utmost importance.
Luckily for CA, the issue has not yet raised its head, but it came awfully close to doing so in the recent match between South Australia and Queensland at Adelaide Oval.
In this match, Queensland raced the clock to win the game inside 25 overs and pick up a double bonus point by reaching the target with "double" the run-rate of its opposition.
Needing four runs to reach the target on the last ball of the 25th over, Bulls' all-rounder Andrew Symonds pummelled a boundary to end the game.
Thankfully for CA, the winning runs weren't struck early in the 26th over, or it would have had some serious explaining to do.
Why? Let's have a look at playing condition 12.2 (b), which deals with the allocation of bonus points in domestic one-day cricket, which states: The team that wins the match and achieves a run rate of twice that of the opposition shall be awarded and additional one bonus point.
As much as any keen cricket fan knows how to work out run rate, appendix three in the 2004-05 book of playing conditions "clarifies" that:A team's run rate will be calculated by reference to the number of runs scored divided by the number of overs faced.
It seems quite simple and straightforward, but in essence it is lazily written to the point where its intentions can be misconstrued.
Here's how - using a hypothetical from the match in Adelaide.
Due to the complicated mathematics involved in working out run rates, the general conception to achieve a run rate "twice that of the opposition" a team must win the match in half the overs allotted.
But, under the strict interpretation of the law, Queensland was still a chance of picking up an extra bonus point early in the 26th over.
Here's how it could happen.
South Australia scored 8 for 202 from 50 overs at a run rate of 4.04 runs per over (rpo), so Queensland needed to "achieve" a run rate of 8.08 rpo or better to pick up an extra bonus point.
Had, for example, Symonds scored three runs of the last ball of the 25th over and tied the scores on 202, the Bulls had not necessarily lost their chance of achieving a run rate "twice that of the opposition".
Lets use the example of a four being hit early in the 26th over.
Should Symonds, (on strike for the start of the new over) smash the first ball of the 26th over to the boundary, Queensland's winning score would be 5 for 206 from 25.1 overs.
Lets do the maths - remembering that one ball is 0.1667 of an over.
206 runs divided by 25.1667 overs 8.1854 rpo.
The answer of 8.1854 rpo is clearly more than "twice that of the opposition" which was 4.04 rpo, hence the Bulls should still be awarded an extra bonus point under the rules as they are currently written.
But, having investigated this matter with CA's operations department, I was told this would not necessarily have been the case.
The intention of the system has more to do with bonus points being awarded for targets being reached in a certain timeframe and not at a certain run rate.
It is a fine line - but so to can be the difference between second and third on the ladder at season's end, and a place or otherwise in the final.
To CA's credit, it is aware of the confusion that could be created by its ambiguous condition. But on the downside, it has done little to clarify the issue in its playing conditions, which are sent to all teams and states, and posted on its website.
CA's operations department regularly sends out technical bulletins to state administrations to update and amend its rules but the last one to mention the calculation of bonus points was in December 2002.
This bulletin, from almost 23 months ago, used the example of the awarding of one bonus point to a team that achieves victory with a run rate of 1.25 times that of the opposition.
It "clarified" that, in a full 50-over match, if the victory target had not been reached once the 40 overs had been completed, that the bonus point target had not been achieved.
The same "clarification" would apply to the awarding of extra bonus points.
So, having sensed the need for further explanation nearly two years ago, why are cricket fans and players alike still confused about when an where bonus points should be awarded?
It is simple - the issue has got under CA's guard (despite two editions of the playing conditions being released since the "clarifying" technical bulletin of December 2002).
It seems CA hasn't gotten around to rewriting the playing condition to a point where it means what the administration intends it to.
So, the moral of the story, is that run rates in the ING Cup have nothing to do with the allocation of bonus points despite the way the rules are written.
Teams will only gain one bonus point by winning using 80 per cent of its allotted overs or restricting its opposition to 80 per cent of its score.
Hence, you only get an extra bonus point if you reach your target in 50 per cent of your allotted overs or restrict the opposition to 50 per cent of your score.
This is different to the International Cricket Committee's rules for bonus points in one-day cricket, which is all to do with run rates, and actually has a chart of examples of one bonus point being gained early in the 41st over when a team is chasing a target in a full 50-over match.
Herein lies the problem.
When I asked CA why the rule would not work the same way as the ICC's I was told it was too confusing and their "amendment" was for ease of communication with the public.
Well, I am all for ease of communication and eliminating the harder parts of the maths, as long as the laws are applied as they are written.
In essence, the philosophy of bonus points in international cricket revolves around run rates and, in Australian domestic cricket, with percentages of overs bowled and runs scored.
Do you get the point?