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Explaining over rate rules in cricket: What is a slow over rate?

A captain has to take care of the over rate.

If we talk about the simple definition of the over rate, then it is the average time taken to bowl a single over. It is calculated by dividing the total time taken by the bowling team to bowl the given number of overs by the total number of overs bowled. Now, the question will arise about why it is relevant.

The game of cricket is time-bound and the game must be finished within the assigned time. For this to happen, the bowling side must bowl their overs within the permitted time limits. However, we don’t live in a perfect world and it doesn’t always happen. Hence, the rule of slow over rate comes into play.

What is a slow over rate in cricket?

A slow over rate means the bowling team is failing to deliver a given number of overs within the permissible time limit. It simply means the fielding side are bowling their overs slowly.

In Test cricket, the fielding side has to bowl 90 overs during the day, while in an ODI game, the bowling side has to deliver 50 overs in 3.5 hours. Meanwhile, the time limit to bowl 20 overs in a T20 match is 90 minutes, and if the fielding team fails to adhere to the time limit, they will be slapped with penalties for the slow over rate.

Slow over rate rules

The ICC has set some rules for the slow over rate and the fielding side shall be penalized for failing to maintain the required over rate. The penalties vary from fines to match fees, suspensions for the skipper, penalty runs, and fielding restrictions.

Usually, the decision depends upon the umpires at the discretion of the match referee.


As per the new rules, fielding restrictions are being imposed in T20I cricket, while fines and match suspensions are handed over in Test cricket.

What is the reason behind the slow over-rate penalties?

The slow over rate rule is there to eliminate unfair practices against the batting team. In case of a crunch situation, the bowling side may halt the game’s proceedings to break the batters’ rhythm.

Furthermore, a lot is tied to any game outside of the ground, including the TV and broadcasting units, sponsors, and fans. The broadcasters have to run pre-match and post-match shows as per the match timings to accommodate the sponsors because a massive financial aspect is also tied up with the game.

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How to calculate the over rate in cricket?

The calculation is simple as the over rate is calculated by the total number of overs bowled in the given period. For example, if a team has bowled 28 overs in 2 hours, the over rate will be 28/2 = 14 overs/hour.

However, unexpected breaks, injury breaks, and drink breaks are also accounted for when calculating the over rate. The bowling side will be given allowances for any forced break. In any such case, officials take into account the time and take that out while calculating the over rate.

Over rate calculation in different formats

Each format has a different set of rules and hence, the calculation is different as well.

  • Test: In a Test match, the bowling side has to bowl a total of 90 overs in the day. There are three sessions in the day – the morning session, the afternoon session, and the evening session. While the first two sessions are of two hours each, the final session goes around 2.5 hours. There is no specific requirement of maintaining the particular over rate in each session. If a team had a slow over-rate in the morning session, they can make it up for it in the afternoon and evening sessions.
  • ODI: In ODI cricket, the bowling team has to bowl a total of 50 overs in 3.5 hours. Hence, a team must maintain the over rate of 14.3 overs per hour.
  • T20I: In the shortest, format of the game, a team must bowl their quota of 20 overs in 90 minutes. Hence, a team must maintain the over rate of 13.33 overs/hour.

Penalties in different forms of cricket to maintain the slow over rate

In Tests, the skipper faces financial fines from match fees as a penalty in the first couple of offenses. It may go up to 100% match fees for the rest of the team alongside the suspension of the skipper for a few matches in the case of repeated offenses.

In ODI cricket, the penalties remain the same as in Test cricket and the skipper and the team might face a financial penalty and the skipper might face suspension. However, the on-field umpires can also slap the fielding side with penalty runs at their discretion.

Meanwhile, new rules have been brought into place in T20I cricket. A cut-off time has been set in T20I cricket and the fielding side has to bring in an extra fielder inside the circle for every over bowled beyond that cut-off time.

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