Why Are There 6 Balls In an Over? (In-Depth Answer)
Cricket is not just a game of throwing, hitting, catching, or running; tactics are also crucial in cricket. The over happens to be the mechanism through which these tactics are implemented, and it helps the team develop an in-game rhythm.
As a viewer, I always anticipate the call ‘over’ from the umpire since, to me, each over shapes the course of the game. However, many viewers like myself have once wondered why there are six balls in an over.
Six balls in an over is simply a balanced number which balances the entire duration of a game. It is also a good number of bowls that enable a team to implement tactics since it is neither too short nor too long.
At the end of every over, there are a lot of uninteresting activities that go on, like switching sides and functions by umpires. Employing four or five balls in an over would mean that one would spend more time switching sides, thus amounting to much more delays. With six balls per over, there is less time spent switching sides, affecting the duration of a match.
Has It Always Been Six Balls?
Today, six balls in an over is a universal standard globally accepted in cricket, but it was not always so. In fact, at some point, the pioneering countries had different numbers of balls per over, ranging from four to eight. It was only in the 1978/79 season that the International Cricket Council (ICC) standardized the rule to six balls (deliveries) per over.
Before 1978, national governing bodies of cricket worked with locally evolved rules that reflected the number of balls per over. Since these were not standardized, they were subject to changes even from the slightest disapproval. As a result, there were many amendments to the required no of balls in an over in many countries before 1978. Let me enumerate some examples.
Australia played cricket with four balls in an over until 1891, when they switched to six balls since four-ball over was time-consuming. Again six was rather slow to their taste, so, in 1924, they moved up to eight but back to six in 1932. Australia still played eight balls in an over officially as late as 1979 before joining the rest of the world in the standard six balls per over.
Another cricket pioneer England also played four balls in an over and only switched to five balls in an over by 1889. Neither four nor five was efficient enough, so, in 1900, England officially started to bowl six balls in an over, and it lasted 39 years. From 1939 they decided to move up to eight balls in an over but upheld the ICC’s standard of six balls in 1978.
Some countries like Pakistan and New Zealand preferred the strength-sapping format with eight balls in an over. This made them hesitant to return to six balls in an over in compliance with the ICC standardization. However, they both obliged to the six balls standard after 1979, making cricket universally organized.
Through historical modification from experiences in the game as well as in cognizance to climatic factors, six balls in an over were only gradually recognized and accepted as a more balanced format in cricket, thus is now globally accepted.
On the other hand, increasing the number of balls for an over would save more time but with significant negative effects. For one, it is more demanding for the bowler and could cause inefficiency in the long run. Bear in mind that there is usually a run-up, and more than six of those in a row would surely induce fatigue in no time.
Therefore the six balls per over as a standard is a good choice for balance and a smooth running of the game for players, officials, and officials.
Could There Be More Than Six Bowls?
Six balls in an over really mean six legitimate balls (deliveries) in an over. And of course, there could be more than six deliveries in an over, but only six legitimate bowls would be counted. So, what could make a delivery illegitimate, and what becomes of such a delivery?
It is called a wide ball when an umpire judges a delivery to be too high or too wide to be hit by a batsman. A wide ball in cricket is an illegitimate delivery and is nullified while the bowler must retake the bowl. When a wide ball is retaken, it does not count as an extra bowl since only the six proper bowls are counted.
Bowls in a six-ball over can also exceed six when an umpire calls a no-ball. The umpire calls a no-ball when delivery is dangerous or simply unfair. A no-ball is called for a beamer or a bouncer delivery, and the delivery is not counted but retaken. Even when an extra run is awarded, it is not included in an over or credited to any individual batsman.
Once again, there could be more than six deliveries in an over, but only six would be legitimate and thus counted. However, a batsman can still score points from a wide or no-ball. I will discuss what is permissible in an over.
Technicalities In An Over
I compare an over to a ’bout’ in boxing because it is also a one-man show. One player alone is supposed to bowl all six balls in an over. Did you know? A player is required to inform the umpire which arm he is using to bowl in particular over.
He can be replaced in a situation where a player cannot bowl all six balls, usually due to injury. His replacement, however, would not be the previous player to deliver an over and not the 12th (substitute) player. The replacing player, too, would inform the umpire which arm he would use to bowl.
Again, no player is allowed to bowl two consecutive overs. Thus, a team captain is required to rotate his bowlers. In a single over, a bowler can switch arms and bowl a fast or spin bowl interchangeably. Additionally, at the end of an over, batsmen only change batting ends while the wicketkeeper goes to the other end.
In a single over, 36 runs are available to score a batsman from the six bowls. Nevertheless, as the number of wide and no-ball increases, the opportunity to score runs increases for a batsman. As stated earlier, a batsman can still score runs from an illegitimate bowl, though it is not counted for the bowler.
In cricket, there exists an over rate, which is the average number of overs completed by a team within an hour. Generally, it takes about three to six minutes to finish an over. From this, International Standards require a team to finish 13 to 15 overs within an hour! This is the standard over rate.
In line with the above, here are a few cricket match formats and the required number of overs for each.
- One-Day International Matches Format
This is a limited-overs match format played in a day. This format consists of 50 overs of batting per team. Whatever the case, only a minimum of 20 completed overs per team is permissible for a result to be announced.
- 20-20 Format
The 20-20 format is also a limited-overs format, and as the name implies, it is limited to 20 overs per side. Where conditions become disruptive, a minimum of 5 completed overs per team is sufficient to announce results in this format.
- Test Cricket Format
Here is a unique format with no limit to the number of overs to be bowled. In this format, captains can declare their innings to save time and get ten wickets of the opposition. This occurrence only happens in test cricket!
Though there are no limited-overs in test cricket, the rule stipulates 90 overs with 88 as a minimum to be completed in a day.
How Are Overs Described?
From the start of this article, I intended to enlighten you more on the overs in cricket and their requirements. At this point, I wish to wrap up by familiarizing you will some terms used to describe overs and what they mean. I believe that this will help you always sound like a pro when discussing overs in cricket.
Below are the professional descriptions of overs.
The mandatory over is a set of 15 overs in Test Matches that must be completed before the end of the 5th day. Ideally, the 5th day cannot close without these overs being completed hence the name-mandatory.
When ties exist in a cricket match, super overs are employed. It is usually used in 20-20 matches and was employed in the ODI final of 2019. A super over is efficient in determining a winner in the advent of a tie.
This format is an over in which the bowler fails to concede even a single run after all bowls. It is, however, not a maiden over if he scores run on a wide or no-ball.
The death over is a limited set of overs towards the end of a cricket match through which a batsman tries to score as many runs as possible. This is a move to influence the overall score of a match. ODI consists of the last ten overs and the last five overs in a 20-20 match. It is also called a slog over.
My Favorite Cricket Equipment
Thanks for reading this article. I hope it brought you value that you can implement into your own life! Below you can find my favorite cricket equipment that I think you’ll like!
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