May 21, 2001

Rare follow-on law applied in Lord's Test

David Liverman

The First Test between Pakistan and England at Lord's illustrated an unusual and little known application of the law governing the follow-on in cricket - specifically law 13.3

"13.3. First day's play lost. If no play takes place on the first day of a match of more than one day's duration, 1 above shall apply in accordance with the number of days remaining from the actual start of the match. The day on which play first commences shall count as a whole day for this purpose, irrespective of the time at which play starts."

In the Lord's Test, the first day had been washed out completely. When Pakistani wickets began to tumble, it was clear that this law might apply, and that Pakistan's target for avoiding the follow-on was not 192, as would normally be the case in a 5-day match (200 runs behind), but 242 (150 runs behind) as applies to a three or four day match. Pakistan passed the 200 run differential, but thanks to Darren Gough's devastating post-lunch onslaught, fell well short of the target required.

CricInfo was inundated with questions regarding this, asking when the new regulation came into play, or whether a mistake had been made. This law has in fact been in place in one form or another since 1914, although rarely applied in Tests.

The last instance took place in February 1971, when India played the West Indies at Sabina Park. After the first day was washed out India, thanks mainly to Sardesai's double-hundred, amassed 387, and then the Indian spinners skittled the West Indies for 217, a deficit of 170.

They were asked to follow-on, but comfortably batted out time for a draw. We are still looking for any other instances in Tests, although the law applies to all multi-day matches.

Chronology:

  • 1787 - 1st mention of follow on; at that time it was the custom for a side behind on 1st innings to follow-on no matter what the deficit.

  • 1835: 1st appearance in laws: compulsory follow on if 100 behind

  • 1854: differential reduced to 80 (60 in one day)

  • 1893: In Oxford - Cambridge match at Lord's, Cambridge deliberately bowled wides to avoid possibility of Oxford being forced to follow-on (Oxford bats were at that point deliberately trying to surrender their wickets to achieve the opposite result), causing intense debate and controversy.

  • 1894: differential increased to 120 in 3 day match.

  • 1896/97: In Australia only , differential set at 200 runs.

  • 1900: follow-on made optional, differential increased to 150 in 3 day matches, 100 in 2 day, 75 in one day.

  • 1907/8 : follow on made optional in Australia

  • 1914: exception made for loss of first day following the modern law 13.3

  • 1962: 200 differential applied for 5-day matches (not affected by rain).