Kolkata Knight Riders v Rajasthan Royals, IPL, Cape Town April 24, 2009

Two overs too many

The Super Over ruined what had been the perfect match, with all the elements of a classic sporting contest

So what's wrong with a tie?

Arguably, the Super Over is far less unsatisfactory than the farce of a Bowlout. It is at least a contest between bat and ball. But do we really need it?

The tie is the rarest result in cricket and, in many ways, the most beautiful. And just. Often it is the true measure of how close the game had been, and how equal - good and bad - the teams were.

I am not a fan of tie-breakers in football either. It reduces the game to a skill of sharp-shooting. But often they happen to the most exciting part of a dreary match, as drawn football games are, with defensive teams playing for the tie-breaker.

The tie is different from a draw. A drawn cricket match can be exciting too, but a tie is invariably thrilling. And the finish often leaves the spectator emotionally spent. Fulfilled but spent. It's a unique combination of regret, relief and exhilaration. For a while you replay that moment that could have won your team the match, and then realise that it could have been lost too. And then you come to the realisation that you have seen the perfect finish, and the rest of the evening, or night, can be spent in that warm glow.

The tie-breaker feels like a charade, a contrived climax after the grand climax. It can produce a high for fans of the winning team but it's a temporary one.

I watched India and Pakistan play out a tie-breaker in the World Twenty20 in 2007 and it left me cold. It had been a dramatic match with plenty of twists and turns. Batting first, India had managed only 141 but reduced Pakistan to 103 for 6 in the 18th over. Misbah ul-Haq and Yasir Arafat then belted 27 off the next eight balls to leave Pakistan needing 12 off the last six. The match ended with a dramatic run-out in the last ball with the scores level.

Or so I would have liked it to end. But then a Bowlout ensued, and Robin Uthappa, Harbhajan Singh and Virender Sehwag proceeded to earn India a win by hitting the stumps after all three Pakistani bowlers - Umar Gul, Arafat, and Shahid Afridi - failed to the find the target.

Thursday's match between Rajasthan Royals and Kolkata Knight Riders was the best of the tournament so far. It had all the elements that make a great Twenty20 match: dramatic fluctuations, outstanding individual performances, excellent tactical manoeuvres, a couple of stirring human stories and a great finish.

Rajasthan stumbled at the start, recovered through an adventurous innings by one of their heroes of last season, were pegged back again by a mystery spinner playing his first match of the season and finished the innings with a flourish with an IPL debutant thrashing two sixes and a four in the final over with his charismatic captain looking on approvingly from the other end.

Kolkata's innings started with a twist, a spinner and a dibbly-dobbler opening the attack. The captain fell early but the cavalier, who hits sixes as casually as most batsmen tap singles, was looking like running away with match when the ageing magician got him to spoon one to his best fielder. Then, with match slipping away, a besieged folk hero produced two stunning sixes but, just when the matter seemed to have been sealed, a rookie who had been playing tennis-ball cricket in obscurity till he was discovered by Rajasthan in a talent-hunt survived a first-ball wide to bowl six impeccable balls to force a tie.

Who needed more? I don't know about you, but the Super Over ruined for me what had been the perfect match till then.

PS: As some readers have pointed out, I can see and live with tie-breakers in knock-out matches. One-day cricket has survived without it, though, and in World Cups there is a provision of deciding the winner based on previous results in the competition. In the 1999 World Cup, Australia went through to the final after a tied semi-final on the virtue of having beaten South Africa before. (Imagine that match being decided by a tie-breaker.) But there is no compelling reason for not letting a tie stand in bilateral series or in preliminary rounds.

Sambit Bal is the editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • cricfan03562734 on April 26, 2009, 5:24 GMT

    Sambit I agree 100% with you. Daniel Vettori phrased it quite eloquently - "the game is 20/20 not 1/1. Super overs may be exciting but if you use them in preliminary matches they won't be as exciting when it comes to the semis and other knockout matches. Save it for the big games. If both teams play evenly in a preliminary match then both teams deserve to take away an equal number of points from the game. All other sports, including other forms of cricket accept ties as an acceptable result. Why can't T20 be the same?

    Twenty twenty cricket at the moment is already exciting enough at the moment. However who knows, maybe with time its popularity may wane like what happened to one-day cricket. So why the over-kill now? When people get bored of the format then bring in new innovations, don't change what the people currently love. I saw no to the super-over

  • Vivek on April 25, 2009, 5:40 GMT

    A really great articly by Sambit. The icing on the cake was the description of the RR-KKR match. Those 3 paragraphs are just words of wisdom.

  • Alan on April 25, 2009, 5:32 GMT

    I completely agree with you. In virtually every other ball sport in the world- soccer, rugby, AFL, etc- ties are acceptable results. In fact, even swimmers, sprinters and race horses can finish in dead heats. That tie that got Australia into the '99 WC final was the greatest ODI game ever played, and the Tied Tests at Brisbane and Madras have gone down in cricketing folklore. The Super Over's just superficial and and opens the result up either to pure luck, or the winning team having one player better than someone on the opposition. Do we really want to open up the result to one over where luck decides the winner after both innings are finished? Do we really want to declare one team a winner because Yusuf Pathan (who's just ONE member of the victorious team) is a better hitter than Chris Gayle (who's also just ONE member of the losing side)? If we were to decide cricket matches like that, then there's not much point in either side turning up to play other than to exchange team sheets

  • David on April 25, 2009, 5:04 GMT

    There is another problem with the super over which makes it different from tie-breakers in other sports: that is the issue of momentum. In soccer, all the players are involved in the same skill set, so nothing changes when it comes to the penalty shootout. In cricket, batting and fielding are entirely different skill sets. The bowlers in particular need a certain amount of time running around in the field before they are fully warmed up and performing at their best (I'm sure that's partly why Mendis got the job - it's theoretically easier for a spinner). The batsmen, on the other hand, just need to be loosened up. So a super over will always disadvantage the team that bowled in the first innings - they have to come out and immediately switch on in the field, while the other team is already in the groove. I say leave it as a tie, but change the point system: 3 for a win, 2 for a tie, 1 for a draw.

  • bass on April 25, 2009, 3:11 GMT

    As Daniel Vettori said, the game's 20-20 not 1-1: the super over is unfair (far superior to the bowl outs though). I feel for a game decided through a super over, the losing team should get at least 1 point, as it happens in ice hockey games in the NHL, where a team losing in over time (after the main match is tied) gets one point.

  • Arvind on April 25, 2009, 2:54 GMT

    Great. Finally someone thinks beyond money. However, I still find the Tie Breaker far less farcical than the Duckworth Lewis "system" of deciding "winners" - in a 20 over game, Team 1 bats for 12 overs, Team 2 bats for 5 overs, and a winner is not decided but "calculated".

    2 questions: 1. With floodlights available, why not play out the full game? 2. If the game cannot be completed in the stipulated time, why not accept the result as a draw, as in Test Cricket? Remember the greatest rain-rule farce, the 1992 World Cup semi-final? The heaven would not have collapsed if the floodlights were left on for another 10 minutes to allow the game to complete.

  • Vijay P on April 25, 2009, 1:44 GMT

    As far as the players are concerned it is a bit unfair that the result is decided based on the super over. But from the point of view of the fans it provides that extra bit of thrilling experience. Being a fan, I would vote for super over.

  • S on April 24, 2009, 18:51 GMT

    Honestly, if you find T20 exciting I can't see why you'd complain about the 'super over'. It gives the viewers complete value for their money - it just adds 'masala' to whats already the spiciest version of cricket.Who needed more ? Well, apart from you Sambit, I don't think any cricket fan would mind another 15 minutes of super exciting cricket. The best part is - it gives everyone a fair chance, its definitely a better means of deciding the winner than a penalty shoot out.

  • Raghupathy on April 24, 2009, 17:51 GMT

    Sir, I don't find anything wrong with the tie breaker system to decide a clear winner in a game in any sport. But the awarding of point is not the correct way to reflect the excitement and hard work of the losing team in the game. Like the National Hockey League in North America they too have the league games to decide winners by tie breaker system, but the losing team does not go empty handed. They are awarded one point. The same system should have been followed here which I am sure even the elite of the IPL would agree.

  • Preshant on April 24, 2009, 16:45 GMT

    Totally agree with you Mr.Bal.A tie is a tie and is uneccesary in round robin stages.It was a beautiful game at the end of the day.Watching Warne and Ganguly trying to outwit each other,looked like an two Greek warriors on the battlefield.In the end both ended at par.Cricket goes beyond results and points my dear friends its about the players.And btw I saw some one say the 1st game was better.Why is that modern day fans love only the big scores??Atleast KKR din't fold up like CSK,who have no one but Raina and Haydos in the batting lineup(sorry to Badri though,who hardly gets time to bat).

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