Kartikeya Date wrote a comment piece a while back expressing amazement at how few professional observers seemed to be aware of how over rates are calculated in international cricket and the indulgences in mistaken arithmetic that follow from it (http://cricketingview.blogspot.co.uk). The subject of over rates was again prominent this week in English cricket with the Championship standings for 2017 finally settled; Middlesex’s appeal against a penalty of two points for slow rates, in the game when an arrow landed on the Oval, rejected.
Championship cricket requires a minimum of 16 overs an hour, which, maybe confusingly, is not to say that those counties who meet the minimum will actually be bowling 16 overs an hour as pavilion clocks tick round. The over rate calculation that is used is
(Time spent in the field in minutes- allowances)/3.75
Rule 16.4 in particular states that two minutes are allowed for when a wicket falls, although not the last wicket or one that is followed directly by an interval. There is no allowance for a drinks break. So, if a team was in the field for an hour with no wickets or anything else to allow for, the calculation becomes 60/3.75 = 16, although, in practice, if a team is to incur a penalty they have to be in the field for at least four hours. As to the anything else that is allowed for, the ECB rules have this to say
“Any suspension of play for an injury to a player or for any other reason beyond the control of the players shall be a deductible allowance”.
So, if an inebriated spectator made their way onto the field and held up play an allowance could easily be made in the calculation. What Arrowgate raised is what happens when there is a longer suspension, such as one from a safety or security alert, that might lead to the early termination of a match, or otherwise seriously reduce the available time for play.
The rules are, of course, cast in terms of the team fielding at the time play is suspended, although the calculation for determining penalties is done on a match basis and a longer suspension might, of course, affect the team batting as well; as arguably happened on the 4th day of the Surrey v Middlesex match. Actually giving players leeway on this appears problematic given the way the rules are expressed through the over rate calculation; at the moment players are given consideration for relatively short interruptions, but not for more lengthy ones, something that, on the face of it, seems ironic.
This time round it appears that the ECB have dealt with a problem by sitting on it. It would be a very good thing for spectators if the safety-related issues raised that day were not sat on, the need for ground authorities to communicate and co-ordinate operationally in particular. A comment on the blogger’s experience that afternoon is here http://bythesightscreen.com/surrey-versus-middlesex-4th-day/
Over on planet football, when Manchester United played AFC Bournemouth at the end of the 2015-16 season, there was a safety alert when a suspect package was found in the toilets before the kick-off, leading to a postponement. During the evacuation of the ground, which took 20 minutes plus as one side of the stadium was emptied followed by the other, the blogger’s experience was that the PA was telling spectators to remain by their seats, while turnstile operators directly underneath were allowing spectators to exit, that of others that spectators were still being admitted to the ground at the time of the evacuation.
Happily all who went to the ground that day went home again, as might be expected when the suspect package was, in fact, a training device. The follow-on question here is were it necessary to evacuate a large crowd at a cricket ground, say 15 minutes before the start of a T20 match, would the response be better than at Old Trafford 18 months ago?