1992 March 26, 2011

The World Cup rain-rule farce

New rain rules for the 1992 World Cup were supposed to be fairer, but in the semi-final between England and South Africa they led to one of the most farcical finishes in the game's history
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The 1992 World Cup probably contained more innovations than any other. It was the first at which teams used coloured clothing, the first to use white balls (two at each end so they didn't get grubby), and the first to use floodlights. It also saw the introduction of a new rain rule. By the end of the tournament, the rule was utterly discredited.

The idea behind the rule was to avoid the old system - work out the runs-per-over of the first innings and then deduct that for each over lost by the side batting second - which heavily disadvantaged the side batting first. The solution, drawn up by experts including Richie Benaud, was that when rain interrupted the second innings of a match the reduction in the target was to be proportionate to the lowest scoring overs of the side batting first, a method that took into account the benefits of chasing, as opposed to setting, a target.

There were signs early on that all was not well. England bowled out Pakistan for 74 at Adelaide. The loss of three hours created a much stiffer target than the Pakistan batsmen had set. For the match to stand, a minimum of 15 overs had to be available to England; but as Pakistan's most successful 15 overs had yielded 62 of their 74 runs, under the rain rule the minimum target had to be 63. After a further shower it was set at 64 from 16, and England still needed 40 from eight when play was abandoned and the points shared.

But the nightmare became reality when England met South Africa in the semi-final at the SCG. England, put into bat by Kepler Wessels, scored 252 for 6 in their 45 overs, the innings curtailed as South Africa had bowled their overs slowly. They were fined for that, although as it turned out their actual punishment was far heavier than the monetary one.

South Africa's chase started well but then they lost their way until Jonty Rhodes got them back on course. With five overs remaining, they needed 47 to win, and that had been reduced to 22 from 13 balls when the rain, which had been falling for a few minutes, grew heavier.

The umpires, Brian Aldridge and Steve Randell, consulted and then spoke to the players. Brian McMillan and Dave Richardson, the South Africa batsmen, wanted to carry on. Graham Gooch was equally adamant that he wanted to come off as the England bowlers struggled with a wet ball and a sodden outfield. The umpires decided that conditions were unfit and the players were taken from the field.

Crucially, any time lost would result in overs being deducted, and under competition rules those would be the least productive for the side batting first. South Africa had bowled two maiden overs in England's innings, which meant that with 2.1 overs remaining any time lost would not result in a reduction in the target but would mean South Africa had fewer balls in which to score the runs.

The rain soon stopped and the total time lost was 12 minutes. It was announced that one over had been deducted and so South Africa's new target was 22 off seven balls. The news did not go down well with the 35,000 crowd and they reacted furiously, jeering and throwing rubbish onto the outfield.

The reality was even grimmer. The announcement of the six-ball reduction was incorrect. The Channel Nine commentators had been told of it by Allan Jordan, South Africa's manager, and in turn that was conveyed to the crowd over the PA. The ludicrousness was compounded when it was subsequently decided that the target was actually 21 as a leg-bye in one of the maidens had been overlooked.

The farce was still not over, however. The players trooped back to the middle unaware, like the crowd, that a second over had been deducted, and therefore only one ball remained. The players were then told, and the crowd looked on bemused as a scowling McMillan ambled a single and set off for the pavilion looking as furious as England - deserved victors, if truth be told - were embarrassed. A look at the scoreboard - which by then had been amended - led to more booing as reality dawned.

As if that wasn't bad enough, the scheduled finish time was 10.10 pm. The scoreboard clock was displaying 10.08pm. What's more, the competition rules had allowed for a reserve day but the host broadcaster, Channel Nine, had insisted the match be finished on the scheduled day.

To their credit, South African came onto the outfield to shake hands with the England side and then embarked on a lap of honour to warm applause from everyone, especially the England supporters.

"If I'd been in Graham's position I'd have done the same thing," Wessels said. "We had to bowl through semi-hard rain in their innings and didn't come off but England did. That's the umpires' decision. I can't do anything about this. I don't blame Gooch.

"It's unfortunate the England players got booed because it was no fault of theirs. It's just the rules."

Gooch admitted he had used the rules to his advantage. "I'd be lying if I didn't think that maybe we should stay on," he said. "The South Africans must feel very dejected to lose like that and my heart goes out to them."

The organisers were, rightly, lambasted, although as John Woodcock in The Cricketer noted: "It must have been a source of great embarrassment to the organisers, though to the best of my knowledge they came nowhere near to admitting it."

In the Independent, Martin Johnson was typically forthright. "Had Martians landed at the SCG they would have concluded there was no intelligent life on earth and gone home." But he also laid the blame for their loss firmly at the feet of the defeated side. "The tears shed by non-South Africans last night would barely have filled an eggcup. Not only did they choose to bat second after winning the toss on a day that had blown in straight from Manchester but they also resorted to tactics that reassured us that the cynical side of South African sport has not disappeared after 22 years in isolation."

England went on to lose the final to Pakistan - a side who only made the semi-finals thanks to the point earned from that abandonment at Adelaide. As for the rain rule, it was quickly consigned to the dustbin and by 1999 the Duckworth-Lewis system, utterly confusing to the ordinary fan but studiously fair, had arrived.

Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • on March 28, 2011, 10:22 GMT

    D/L isn't always fair. I remember a game last year where NZ were chasing around 250, due to rain they lost 8 overs but only had something like 13 runs removed from the required target. It still has problems, but I guess this system is better than the alternative.

  • on March 28, 2011, 7:38 GMT

    In response to an earlier question... under Duckworth Lewis, the target would have been readjusted to SA needing 3 runs to win off 1 ball (and presumably 2 to tie).

  • on March 28, 2011, 3:05 GMT

    I believe that predictions system may be suspended as soon as possible, since cricket is a game which gives different results between same opponents every time, a team failing in a match comes back strongly in the other and vice versa. So to keep the fair results re-scheduling an interrupted game is a better option rather than revising a match to limited overs or runs. Every time, D/L method is used one of the two teams is benefited and other is damaged. I strongly support the option of reserve days and re-scheduling of games to ensure best and fair results.

  • oleg_mcnoleg on March 28, 2011, 2:47 GMT

    @GooiMielies. You're nearly right. There IS a reserve day for all games from Quarter Finals onwards - to finish "incomplete" matches. 20 overs are required to be bowled to make a match complete. The one over separator is to be used in the event of a tie. If the conditions prevent a result then the team that finished higher in the group stages progresses. If no result is possible in the final then the teams are "joint winners"

  • Shaft99 on March 28, 2011, 1:48 GMT

    nobody was really at fault, if the same thing happened today the only difference would be that duckworth-lewis would have required SA to score 25 runs from 1 ball instead of 21, of course overs always get deducted for rain delays, it doesnt matter whether they are running late or not, can you imagine the flak if the match referee had said oh well we've got a bit of time lets just bend the rules a bit and bowl the extra overs anyway, and SA had won the game, now THAT would have been a farce.

  • Meety on March 28, 2011, 1:27 GMT

    @agnitroy - The way the Saffas lost would be considered unfair, EXCEPT the fact they only bowled 45 overs! They shot themselves in the foot. LOL!

  • tahalateef on March 27, 2011, 17:04 GMT

    If truth be told, in 1992 Pakistan, England, and South Africa all benefited and suffered due to the flawed rain rule once. In PAK v/s SA, SA benefited from rule when the target of 212 in 50 for PAK was altered to an unfair 194 in 36 overs - a reduction of only 15 runs for the loss of the 14 good and tight overs bowled by PAK - when rain interrupted play at 74/2 in 21.3 overs. If D/L (target 161 in 36 overs) or any other sane rule was in effect, PAK would have won as they scored 173/8 in 36 overs i.e. another 99 in 14.3 overs. They would have gained two points and not needed the one point from the rain affected match against England to reach the semi's. Whilst SA were lead down by the rain rule in the semi's, they have a lot to blame themselves as well in losing that match. And were it not for the two points against PAK, SA may perhaps not even have been in semi's in the first place. I think in the end it turned out to be fair for all in the overall context of the World Cup.

  • Jey3 on March 27, 2011, 16:58 GMT

    India's loss to Australia is comfortable forgotten, which is also due to this stupid rule.

  • isot123 on March 27, 2011, 16:30 GMT

    expecting an article on the D-L system...

  • dinosaurus on March 27, 2011, 12:48 GMT

    I think that the designers of the unfortunate rule don't deserve as much criticism as they get. Their intentions were honest - it's just that the rule was not suitable when the number of available overs was too small. It was an improvement on the previous rule, and the Duckworth Lewis system was a very much better system again. But it is in its turn sometimes criticised (though again, in my view, unfairly). But it is not inconceivable that it too can be improved.

  • on March 28, 2011, 10:22 GMT

    D/L isn't always fair. I remember a game last year where NZ were chasing around 250, due to rain they lost 8 overs but only had something like 13 runs removed from the required target. It still has problems, but I guess this system is better than the alternative.

  • on March 28, 2011, 7:38 GMT

    In response to an earlier question... under Duckworth Lewis, the target would have been readjusted to SA needing 3 runs to win off 1 ball (and presumably 2 to tie).

  • on March 28, 2011, 3:05 GMT

    I believe that predictions system may be suspended as soon as possible, since cricket is a game which gives different results between same opponents every time, a team failing in a match comes back strongly in the other and vice versa. So to keep the fair results re-scheduling an interrupted game is a better option rather than revising a match to limited overs or runs. Every time, D/L method is used one of the two teams is benefited and other is damaged. I strongly support the option of reserve days and re-scheduling of games to ensure best and fair results.

  • oleg_mcnoleg on March 28, 2011, 2:47 GMT

    @GooiMielies. You're nearly right. There IS a reserve day for all games from Quarter Finals onwards - to finish "incomplete" matches. 20 overs are required to be bowled to make a match complete. The one over separator is to be used in the event of a tie. If the conditions prevent a result then the team that finished higher in the group stages progresses. If no result is possible in the final then the teams are "joint winners"

  • Shaft99 on March 28, 2011, 1:48 GMT

    nobody was really at fault, if the same thing happened today the only difference would be that duckworth-lewis would have required SA to score 25 runs from 1 ball instead of 21, of course overs always get deducted for rain delays, it doesnt matter whether they are running late or not, can you imagine the flak if the match referee had said oh well we've got a bit of time lets just bend the rules a bit and bowl the extra overs anyway, and SA had won the game, now THAT would have been a farce.

  • Meety on March 28, 2011, 1:27 GMT

    @agnitroy - The way the Saffas lost would be considered unfair, EXCEPT the fact they only bowled 45 overs! They shot themselves in the foot. LOL!

  • tahalateef on March 27, 2011, 17:04 GMT

    If truth be told, in 1992 Pakistan, England, and South Africa all benefited and suffered due to the flawed rain rule once. In PAK v/s SA, SA benefited from rule when the target of 212 in 50 for PAK was altered to an unfair 194 in 36 overs - a reduction of only 15 runs for the loss of the 14 good and tight overs bowled by PAK - when rain interrupted play at 74/2 in 21.3 overs. If D/L (target 161 in 36 overs) or any other sane rule was in effect, PAK would have won as they scored 173/8 in 36 overs i.e. another 99 in 14.3 overs. They would have gained two points and not needed the one point from the rain affected match against England to reach the semi's. Whilst SA were lead down by the rain rule in the semi's, they have a lot to blame themselves as well in losing that match. And were it not for the two points against PAK, SA may perhaps not even have been in semi's in the first place. I think in the end it turned out to be fair for all in the overall context of the World Cup.

  • Jey3 on March 27, 2011, 16:58 GMT

    India's loss to Australia is comfortable forgotten, which is also due to this stupid rule.

  • isot123 on March 27, 2011, 16:30 GMT

    expecting an article on the D-L system...

  • dinosaurus on March 27, 2011, 12:48 GMT

    I think that the designers of the unfortunate rule don't deserve as much criticism as they get. Their intentions were honest - it's just that the rule was not suitable when the number of available overs was too small. It was an improvement on the previous rule, and the Duckworth Lewis system was a very much better system again. But it is in its turn sometimes criticised (though again, in my view, unfairly). But it is not inconceivable that it too can be improved.

  • Eccafrog on March 27, 2011, 11:45 GMT

    How sure arfe you yhat Duckworth-Lewis is fair ?? I have seen cases when a team has come off for a rain delay, lost some overs then told had to score more runs than when came off in fewer overs ???

  • on March 27, 2011, 10:19 GMT

    @Nick Cowley - A Duckworth/Lewis calculation under the rules in 2006 would have first set South Africa a target of 273 in 45 overs, and then reduced this to 257 from 43 overs.

    You can find this information (in the Match Notes) in the scorecard of the match on Cricinfo. The link to the Scorecard of the match is at the top right hand side of this article.

  • PeterCook on March 27, 2011, 8:37 GMT

    I'd rather have lost that game than go through the pain of getting walloped by an Imran and Wasim-inspired Pakistan (after bowling them out for about 70 in the group games)

  • Jaggu_Mubbi on March 27, 2011, 6:48 GMT

    First of all thanks to Cricinfo for the article. oh boy these South Africans have bad luck where ever they go. It started in bizarre fashion and continues the same way till date. My heart goes out for them. Rules or not destiny has been unfair to them. We can't do any thing but to pray that they win 2015 world cup.

  • Rahul_78 on March 27, 2011, 5:35 GMT

    If there was a reserved day scheduled for the contest...cant critisize kepler for opting to bawl in seamer friendly overcast conditions. I cant even imagine broadcaster trying to dictate term against ind vs pak semi final that is scheduled to play in this world cup. :)

  • on March 27, 2011, 4:41 GMT

    Has anyone ever figured out what SA's target would have been had the D/L method been in operation at the time? Incidentally, in all fairness I believed then, and still do, that SA might have struggled to get the initial 22 off13 balls - the boundaries at SCG are very long, the outfield was waterlogged, and neither McMillan - despite his big stature - nor Richardson were really known as hitters. But it remains one of the great injistices of sport that they weren't given the chance.

  • slcrickcrazyfan on March 27, 2011, 4:00 GMT

    If SA was unlucky there, there were badly unlucky in '99.....

  • ram_swam on March 27, 2011, 3:46 GMT

    one thing forgotten about the 1992 WC match between Eng-SA was that SA played it smart while fielding and bowled only 45 overs to prevent Eng from running away in the end overs... there was no penalty system then.. so that gamesmanship came back to haunt them at the end.

  • on March 27, 2011, 1:59 GMT

    "but they also resorted to tactics that reassured us that the cynical side of South African sport has not disappeared after 22 years in isolation".......can someone (ideally the author) explain what this means? I am curious. I wanna know what tactics did they employ?

  • magic2ouch on March 27, 2011, 1:02 GMT

    Justice was served in the end as Gooch's boys lost the cup anyway to Pakistan who had benefited from the rule earlier on! So much for it being a gentleman's game and english fair play etc - gooch should have played on rather than go off.

  • GooiMielies on March 26, 2011, 22:56 GMT

    As far as I know there is NO, I repeat NO reserve day for this world cup.

    It the game rains out...but conditions allow...then a 1 over is played to determine the winner. If no play is possible, then the team that finished higher during the group stages go through.

    In the final there is also one over, but if no play is possible then it shared.

    Am I right?

  • on March 26, 2011, 22:35 GMT

    Wasn't this the tournament where run out decisions using the television replay and 3rd umpire introduced? Also i believe Sachin was the first ever player to be adjudged run out using this tech..

  • on March 26, 2011, 20:47 GMT

    My wife (in her resplendent new commemorative England shirt) and I (in my Aussie shirt) were at the game. Spent the first part of the game in the Bradman stand surrounded (as it turned out) by SA supporters, perhaps not the best locale. Moved to the Hill (where the Barmy Army has set up camp) for the finale, probably the safest place there as things turned out. Everyone at the ground was disgusted by the way it turned out.

  • bull01 on March 26, 2011, 17:47 GMT

    What a monstrous error of judgment on the part of the organisers. It seems like the idea of the best team winning - or an even chance for that to happen is / wasn't a concern. So World Champions suddenly become based on chance rather than ability. A flawed system.

  • on March 26, 2011, 17:47 GMT

    it was ridicules.. South Africa has yet to over-come it.. but as per A Duckworth/Lewis calculation under the rules in 2006 would have first set South Africa a target of 273 in 45 overs, and then reduced this to 257 from 43 overs.

  • on March 26, 2011, 17:10 GMT

    There isn't anything fair about the Duckworth-Lewis system either.

  • bumsonseats on March 26, 2011, 15:59 GMT

    in 92 the reason SA lost was because they bowled their overs to England to slow. i have the video, when you listen to the commentry bill lawry ( who loved england lol) says quite plainly the reason. in those days if i remember rightly u had to bowl the 50 overs in a set time if not those that had not been bowled by that time were taken from the other side but the runs required were still the same. dpk

  • on March 26, 2011, 14:41 GMT

    If the conditions were good enough to bowl one ball, they were good enough to bowl 13 balls. It would have hardly taken 10 more minutes to bowl it. I am sure nobody would have complained about staying on for an additional 10 minutes. Why did the organisers bow down to the Channel Nine anyway? If the BCCI were involved here, they would have got brickbats for the next 100 years. In any case, if they were so concerned about the broadcaster, they could have just carried on with game, while allowing the broadcaster to shut the telecast at the agreed time. I suppose this was also the starting point of display of ICC's lack of common sense.

  • on March 26, 2011, 14:10 GMT

    I wonder the organizers/broadcasters (Channel Nine) would have forced the completion of the match if it were Australia (host country) and not SA? Definitely not! Shame on Channel Nine and Cricket Australia for allowing such a travesty to take place. Would have love to see the reaction of the Australian media/public if such a thing had happened to them in the sub-continent.

  • on March 26, 2011, 12:45 GMT

    No good luck to SA in WC till now(2011)...

  • ummy on March 26, 2011, 11:07 GMT

    I always felt that the rain interrupted match between England and Pakistan was an act of divine intervention considering that they were on the verge of being knocked out of the tournament and then went on to win it the world cup.

  • Venkiviru on March 26, 2011, 8:58 GMT

    it all started here....POOR Africans got d Chokers tag!!!!

  • on March 26, 2011, 8:03 GMT

    acording to new role srilanka surpas due to higher ranking in the group stages

  • on March 26, 2011, 7:55 GMT

    That's the history of target re-alignments for disrupted matches. Is there any linear model of the Duckworth-Lewis that the avid cricket fan can follow? I know that there are at least 4 sets of equations that apply in as many scenarios, and a table where computing power is not available, but surely there should be something out there that a normal fan can use to 'best guess' target score while the rain overtakes play in the field and he has nothing to do but drink a hot cup of cocoa milk!

  • NALINWIJ on March 26, 2011, 6:55 GMT

    This was a disgraceful finish and common sense should have prevailed. Duckworth Lewis was a fair replacement. @agintroy justifiably criticises the broadcaster/organiser. I am not sure whether he knows about the debacle of TV coverage in Australia of the 1987 WC when Chanel 9 concerned about the raiting did not show it even though they had the rights expecting AUS to do badly but they won the cup and people did not see the exciting end on TV.

  • addiemanav on March 26, 2011, 6:55 GMT

    i am not sure about one thing!!did the players knew abt this rule before the start of the tnmnt,wer they told abt it by their respective boards??did icc made an effort to tell this to everyone??and if players knew,why didnt they protest,coz anyone with any little sense of understanding ,will not agree to such idiotic rules!!i think it is very important for icc to make sure that all participating teams know about tnmnt rules well before the start,and can be altered as well!!92' rules wer the worst and most idiotic ever,where in fact the format was the best ever!!pak lost the game against SA bcoz of this rule,& somehow saved themselves from a defeat against eng..bowled out for 74,& then rain rules cud hav actually helped them win the game!as stated in the article 40 off 8overs,against wasim and company cud hav been tricky!!foolish rules!!who was the tnmnt director??

  • on March 26, 2011, 5:36 GMT

    Not bad at all!!! For clarity

  • milhanh on March 26, 2011, 4:14 GMT

    If it rains in todays QF against SL v ENG, what happens are they going to have a reserve day or is this d only day. And to allow SL to go through cos of their table position is really unfair...

  • agnitroy on March 26, 2011, 4:12 GMT

    This was unfair on the South Africans. That the organisers/broadcasters (Channel Nine here) forced the match to be completed on the same day goes to show that Cricket by '92 was fast becomng a money churner than a fair game. Really can't fathom the necessity of curtailing the overs to such an extent that the match ended at 10:08 pm instead of 10:10 pm. Had the South Africans won the World Cup '92, things could have been much better for South African cricket if its not already good.

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  • agnitroy on March 26, 2011, 4:12 GMT

    This was unfair on the South Africans. That the organisers/broadcasters (Channel Nine here) forced the match to be completed on the same day goes to show that Cricket by '92 was fast becomng a money churner than a fair game. Really can't fathom the necessity of curtailing the overs to such an extent that the match ended at 10:08 pm instead of 10:10 pm. Had the South Africans won the World Cup '92, things could have been much better for South African cricket if its not already good.

  • milhanh on March 26, 2011, 4:14 GMT

    If it rains in todays QF against SL v ENG, what happens are they going to have a reserve day or is this d only day. And to allow SL to go through cos of their table position is really unfair...

  • on March 26, 2011, 5:36 GMT

    Not bad at all!!! For clarity

  • addiemanav on March 26, 2011, 6:55 GMT

    i am not sure about one thing!!did the players knew abt this rule before the start of the tnmnt,wer they told abt it by their respective boards??did icc made an effort to tell this to everyone??and if players knew,why didnt they protest,coz anyone with any little sense of understanding ,will not agree to such idiotic rules!!i think it is very important for icc to make sure that all participating teams know about tnmnt rules well before the start,and can be altered as well!!92' rules wer the worst and most idiotic ever,where in fact the format was the best ever!!pak lost the game against SA bcoz of this rule,& somehow saved themselves from a defeat against eng..bowled out for 74,& then rain rules cud hav actually helped them win the game!as stated in the article 40 off 8overs,against wasim and company cud hav been tricky!!foolish rules!!who was the tnmnt director??

  • NALINWIJ on March 26, 2011, 6:55 GMT

    This was a disgraceful finish and common sense should have prevailed. Duckworth Lewis was a fair replacement. @agintroy justifiably criticises the broadcaster/organiser. I am not sure whether he knows about the debacle of TV coverage in Australia of the 1987 WC when Chanel 9 concerned about the raiting did not show it even though they had the rights expecting AUS to do badly but they won the cup and people did not see the exciting end on TV.

  • on March 26, 2011, 7:55 GMT

    That's the history of target re-alignments for disrupted matches. Is there any linear model of the Duckworth-Lewis that the avid cricket fan can follow? I know that there are at least 4 sets of equations that apply in as many scenarios, and a table where computing power is not available, but surely there should be something out there that a normal fan can use to 'best guess' target score while the rain overtakes play in the field and he has nothing to do but drink a hot cup of cocoa milk!

  • on March 26, 2011, 8:03 GMT

    acording to new role srilanka surpas due to higher ranking in the group stages

  • Venkiviru on March 26, 2011, 8:58 GMT

    it all started here....POOR Africans got d Chokers tag!!!!

  • ummy on March 26, 2011, 11:07 GMT

    I always felt that the rain interrupted match between England and Pakistan was an act of divine intervention considering that they were on the verge of being knocked out of the tournament and then went on to win it the world cup.

  • on March 26, 2011, 12:45 GMT

    No good luck to SA in WC till now(2011)...