Cricket has got several rules. Each rule plays a vital role in the game and dictates the result of any match. Some rules are well known to everyone as it is quite frequently observed in cricket whereas some are a bit lesser known due to their complexity or low frequency of occurrence.
‘Follow on’ in cricket is one of the comparatively lesser known rules in cricket, and this article will cover everything that is in store for the cricketing terminology ‘follow on’ and follow on rules.
What is a Follow On in Cricket?
First and foremost, in international cricket, a follow-on occurs only in Test Cricket and not in any other format.
When a team (for example India) bats first in Test Cricket, the team posts a 1st innings total. Now when the opposition (for example New Zealand) comes to bat, depending on the score New Zealand ends up within the first innings, they will either lead India by some runs (that is score more than India’s first innings score by some runs) or trail India’s first innings score by some runs (that is score less than India’s first innings score by some runs).
If New Zealand, that is the team who bats second in the 1st innings, trails the team who bats 1st in the 1st innings by at least 200 runs, then the team that bats first in the first innings can enforce a ‘follow-on’, that is it can enforce the trailing team to bat once again.
Thus, in a test match if the team’s 1st innings total of the team batting first exceeds the 1st innings total of the team that bats 2nd by 200 runs or more, then the team with the lead can enforce a follow-on, and hence the trailing team will have to come out and bat again.
For example, if in the first innings, India batted first and scored 450 runs, and then New Zealand (NZ) in their 1st innings could only manage 225 runs, then NZ trailed India by 225 runs which is more than the minimum limit of 200 runs. So, if India wants, they can enforce a follow-on where NZ will have to come out and bat again. Going by the same example, had NZ scored 251 runs or more, then India could not have exercised the follow-on.
This follow-on rule is completely optional if the team that batted first and enjoys a lead of 200 or more over the team that batted second wants to bat again, they can do so, and it is not compulsory to enforce a follow-on.
The decision whether to enforce the follow-on or not is taken by the captain of the team with the lead of 200 runs or more depending on the situation of the match by consulting with his teammates and coaching staff and thereby informing the opposition captain.
It is evident that follow-on can only happen if the first innings total of the team batting first exceeds the first innings score of the team batting second by 200 runs or more.
Now, the following are the possible pros and cons of follow-on.
Pros of The Follow On Rules in Cricket
- It saves a lot of time. If the team with the lead thinks that they have a sufficient lead and batting again will not do much good, then they can enforce a follow-on and finish the game early.
- If the game finishes early, then the players get additional time or days of rest before playing the next match which is again an advantage of a follow-on.
- A team may enforce a follow-on in order to know what exactly they need to chase in order to win the test match if they at all have to bat again which gives a lot more clarity and negates any doubt as to what can be a safe target to set.
- The Follow-on rule acts as a boon for rain-curtailed matches. If sufficient time is lost due to rain, and a team manages to bring a follow-on situation, then exercising this rule can ensure a result in the match other than a tie which is a major advantage of the follow-on rule.
Cons of The Follow On Rules in Cricket
- The biggest disadvantage of a follow-on is that it increases the workload of the bowlers in the given match as after bowling for a considerable amount of time and taking 10 wickets, they will have to repeat that process again.
- Follow-on doesn’t always ensure a win. It may well happen that the team that is batting due to the follow-on, bats really well and sets a big 4th innings target which can be difficult to get as batting 4th on most occasions is the toughest thing to do in Test Cricket.
- It may also happen that the batsman of the team with the lead doesn’t get much batting time at the crease before the next match due to the follow-on being enforced on the opposition.
Best Examples of The Follow-On in Cricket
The Test series in India’s tour of Sri Lanka in 2017 provides a very good example that the choice of a follow-on is optional and it depends on the pulse of the match.
In the first Test, India batted first and scored 600 runs in the 1st innings whereas Sri Lanka could only manage 291 runs. With a lead of 309 runs, India had the option to enforce a follow-on but didn’t as India batted again and declared their 2nd innings after scoring 240/3 giving a target of 550 runs to Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka could only score 245 runs in their 2nd innings and India won the match by 304 runs.
In the second Test match of the same series, India again batted first and declared their innings at 622/9 whereas Sri Lanka could only manage 183 runs in their 1st innings. Having a lead of 439 runs, this time India enforced the follow-on and Sri Lanka scored 386 runs in their 2nd innings and thus India won by an inning and 43 runs.
Perhaps the best example where the follow-on doesn’t always ensure a win is the 2nd Test match of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy between India and Australia in 2001 at the Eden Gardens.
Australia batted first and scored 445 runs and India in their first innings got all out for just 171 runs. With a lead of 274 runs, Australia decided to enforce a follow-on which backfired them, as thanks to a record-breaking 376 runs partnership between VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid, India scored a mammoth 657 runs in their 2nd innings and declared. Australia failed to reach the target of 384 runs as they got bundled out for 212 runs which meant India won the match by 171 runs!
That is all about the follow on rules in cricket.
FAQs on Follow On Rules
What is a follow-on in cricket?
In a test match, if the team’s 1st innings total that bats 1st in the match exceeds the 1st innings total of the team that bats 2nd by 200 runs or more, then the team with the lead can enforce a follow-on, and hence the trailing team will have to come out and bat again.
What are the minimum runs lead required to enforce a follow-on?
A minimum of 200 runs lead is required to enforce a follow-on.
When were the follow on rules introduced?
The follow on rules were introduced in the 1800s.
Has a team ever lost even after enforcing a follow-on?
Yes, Australia is the only team who has lost a test match even after enforcing the follow-on, that too thrice.