Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 8 April 2020

On this day: March 22, 1992: South Africa asked to score 21 from one ball

England advance to Cricket World Cup final after rain ruins Proteas' chances in Sydney

It is one of the most unfortunate incidents to unfold on a cricket field. South Africa were knocked out of the World Cup on this day in 1992 in the most farcical of circumstances. Rain has never been a friend of cricket and it was made amply clear during the semi-final clash in Sydney.

England batted first and posted 252-6 in 45 overs, Graeme Hick top-scoring with 83. In the chase, the Proteas seemed to be on track as Andrew Hudson (46) and Jonty Rhodes (43) kept them in the game. And then, the rain came.

South Africa needed 22 from 13 balls when bad weather intervened. After the rain break, the convoluted ‘most productive overs’ method was used to set up a revised target of 21 from one delivery. This is how the rule worked. In case of rain delay during the chase, the target was reduced in proportion to the lowest-scoring over of the team batting first. This meant that Meyrick Pringle’s two maiden overs cost the South Africans dear. The equation changed to 22 from seven balls, which was later adjusted to 21 from just one ball.

The absurdity of that calculation led to the adoption of the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method.

England thus qualified for the final, where they lost to Imran Khan’s Pakistan. Interestingly, according to ESPNcricinfo, there was a reserve day for the semi-final but the broadcaster pushed for the match to be finished that night.

Also, South Africa only bowled 45 overs in their allotted three-and-a-half hours instead of the 50. That slow over rate cost them in the most painful of ways.

“None of us could work out what they needed and the scoreboard actually got it wrong, showing 22," the then England team member Allan Lamb wrote in The Guardian in 2009. "At that time even the umpires were battling to work it out. It was a very unfair way to do it. For them to have lost two overs and then be left needing more than 20 off one ball was shocking.”

According to the DLS method, South Africa's revised target would have been 257 in 43 overs, meaning they would have needed five runs to win off the last ball.

Farcical rain rules are not a thing of the past, however. England women's team captain Heather Knight was forced to urge the ICC to have reserve days at future T20 World Cups after her team were eliminated at the semi-final stage of this year's edition in Sydney without a ball being bowled.

Heavy rain prevented England and India's first semi-final from taking place. In the absence of reserve days, India progressed to the final where they lost to hosts Australia.

‘It’s the rules I guess. We signed up to it at the start of the tournament,’ Knight said.

‘It’s just frustrating really and it could have been avoided and you hope that now it is brought into the game in the future."

Looks like cricket will take a long time to learn from its mistakes.

Updated: March 22, 2020 08:10 AM

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