What is Follow-On in Cricket? | Stats and Records of Follow-On

Follow-On in Cricket

Cricket is called gentlemen’s game. The beauty of the game lies in Test Cricket and is considered the highest standard format of the game. But, this longer format of the game is a little bit confusing for beginners or people not having a good idea about it. They don’t understand What’s going on in the match. This may be because of too many rules and terms appearing in Test Cricket. One of the confusing concepts in test cricket is “follow-on”

One must have good knowledge about the rules of test cricket which we have already covered to enjoy watching the game. In this article, we will be explaining in detail the term “follow-on” and the rules of the follow-on in the test cricket. Also, we will see the statistics and records related to “follow-on” with examples.

Meaning of Follow-On in Cricket

Follow-on is a rule by which the team batting in second innings can be enforced to bat again just after the end of their first innings. The follow-on can be enforced by the team batted in the first innings only if their first-innings lead is at least 200 runs.

When the lead is of 200 runs or more, it is the captain’s decision of the first team whether to give follow-on or not. If the captain wants to give follow-on, he needs to notify this to the umpires and the opposing team captain. Once notified, the decision cannot be changed.   

Minimum Lead Required

The standard Test matches are played for five days. And as we mentioned above, the minimum lead required to enforce the follow-on in a standard five days test match is 200 runs. But, this rule changes according to the length of the match.

  • When the test match length is 3 or 4 days, the minimum lead required to enforce follow-on is 150 runs.
  • If the test match length is 2 days, the minimum lead required to enforce follow-on is 100 runs.
  • When the test match is of a single day (extremely rare), the minimum lead reduces to 75 runs.

Note- If a match length is reduced before starting the match, the minimum lead is reduced according to the above rules. But, if the match is reduced after the commencement of the game, the minimum lead required will remain unchanged.

Explanation with examples

Consider a test match between India and South Africa(SA) played last year. In this match, India batting in first innings scored a big total of 497 runs with the help of Rohit Sharma’s double ton. Now, SA came to bat and got all-out on just 162 runs in their 1st innings. Thus, India got a big lead of 335 runs which is more than a minimum lead required to enforce the follow-on. Considering the lead and bowling strength, Virat Kohli enforced SA to bat again. Now, again by the brilliant performances of bowlers SA got all-out at only 133 runs. The sum of scores of SA’s both innings is less than India’s 1st innings score. And thus, India won the match by an innings and 202 runs.

Now, let’s see another example in which follow-on was available but the captain didn’t take it. In India vs West Indies match, India won the toss and bats first. The 1st innings score of India was 416. Now, WI started their 1st innings and scored only 117 runs. Thus, India has a lead of 299 runs. But instead of enforcing the follow-on, Virat Kohli chose to bat again. In their 2nd innings, India declared their innings on 168 and puts a target of 467 runs. Chasing the target WI, got all-out on 210 runs and India won the match by 257 runs.

The decision of follow-on is taken by the captain who considers the scores/ lead, playing conditions, whether bowlers are tired or not, etc.

There are several other factors that the captains may consider and these may vary with the thinking of every captain. They take the decision which is more advantageous for the team.

Advantages of enforcing the follow-on in cricket

  • The main advantage of enforcing the follow-on is to prevent or reduce the chances of a draw. Batting in the last innings, the defending team may bat more cautiously and just focused on spending the time. While if the follow-on is enforced they will have to bat for a longer duration and thus this tactic can not be used here.
  • The Follow-on increases the pressure on the opposite team. It shows that you are playing to win the game as early as possible which puts them psychologically at the backfoot.
  • It shows that as a captain you have trust in your bowlers and players. This boosts their confidence and a positive mindset is created which is very important in any sport.
  • The team may not have to bat in their 2nd innings.
  • If the conditions are favorable for bowling, then follow-on is a very good option to take advantage of and finish the match early.

Disadvantages of enforcing the follow-on in cricket

  • The main disadvantage is the tiring of bowlers. If the bowlers are very tired, their quality of bowling can be lowered. If so, the opposition team will get the advantage and can put a big total on the board.
  • By declining the follow-on, the team can bat again for sufficient time and score enough runs that their chances of losing become negligible. By doing this, the probability of draw increases.
  • The state of the pitch deteriorates as the game passes. The pitches become more friendly for the spinners and hence no team could like to bat in the last innings.

Follow-on percentage in cricket

Since the beginning of test cricket, the total number of test matches played up to June 2020 is 2387. In these total matches played, the follow-on was available in only 388 matches. Thus in only 16.25% of the total matches played, the follow-on was available in the history of test cricket.

However, in many instances, the captains have declined to give the follow-on. In these 388 matches, the follow-on was enforced in 286 matches. Hence, when the follow-on was available it had been used in 73.7% matches. Now, out of these 286 matches, the teams which have enforced the follow-on has won 225 matches and 58 matches have been drawn while in only 3 matches the team has been lost. Thus the win percentage after enforcing the follow-on is 78.67 while the losing percentage is only 1.05%.

The follow-on was declined in 102 matches. Out of which, the teams were able to win the 88 matches while 12 matches had been drawn and only 2 matches were lost. Hence, after declining the follow-on the winning percentage is 86.27% while the losing percentage is only 1.96%.

Hence, once the team gets into the dominant position where it has the choice to enforce the follow-on, the chances of winning the match are very high while there is very little chance of losing the match from that position.

Historic follow-on match in cricket

The probability of losing a match after enforcing the follow-on is very less. The team on which follow-on was enforced has won only 3 times in history. And it’s Australia who has faced the defeat all three times.

Here we are talking about India vs Australia test match played on Eden Gardens, in 2001. At that time, Australians have come to India with a winning streak of 15 matches. In that three-match series, they have won the first test at Mumbai. In 2nd test at Kolkata, Australia had won the toss and elected to bat first. They scored a good total of 445 runs with Steve Waugh(110) and Hayden(97) in their 1st innings. Harbhajan Singh has taken seven wickets in the first innings including a hat-trick (Ponting, Gilchrist, Warne). Now, India scored only 171 runs in their 1st innings with Laxman(59). Thus, Australia got a big lead of 274 runs, and their captain Steve Waugh choose to enforce the follow-on on India.

So, India came to bat again. The Australians thought to end up the match early but Laxman and Dravid got other ideas. They both batted sensationally and changed the course of the game. Their partnership of 376 runs is the highest 5th wicket partnership for India. Laxman ended up scoring 281(44×4) runs while Dravid was run-out on 180(20×4) runs. India declared their innings at the score 657/7 and gave Australia a target of 383 runs. The time was insufficient to chase the target and the match was going towards a draw.

By tea, Australia had scored 161/3, and a draw appeared the most likely result. But within a few minutes, their batting collapsed. Harbhajan took 2 wickets in one over followed quickly by three wickets of Sachin Tendulkar. Australia got all-out on 212 and India managed to win the game by 171 runs. In 2nd innings, Harbhajan took six wickets and gave a remarkable contribution to the match.

For his extraordinary performance, VVS Laxman was awarded man of the match award and from this match only, people started calling him Very Very Special Laxman. This is the only match in the history of cricket where a team batting in follow-on declared their innings and won the match with a big margin of 171 runs. That’s why this is a very very special match in the history of cricket.

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