What Is The Follow On In Cricket?

The longer versions of cricket where matches last multiple days can be incredibly confusing for beginners. You’ll need a good knowledge of the rules of the game in order to stay up to date and be able to understand what’s going on during all the different phases of the match! One part of the longer form of the game that confuses a lot of people is the ‘follow on’! It doesn’t happen very often, and as a result many casual cricket fans have no idea how it works and what the rules are! In this post I’ll explain what the follow on is, and why cricket teams will choose to enforce it. I’ll also answer a few more common questions that I often hear when talking about it!

So first, what exactly is the follow on?

The follow on is a rule in cricket which can potentially force the team batting second to bat again straight after their original innings has finished. In test cricket, the follow on can only be enforced if the team batting first achieves a first innings lead of at least 200 runs. If this happens, the captain of the team that batted first must make a decision on whether to force the other team to bat again, or to continue with the original order of play and send their own team out to bat.

As I just mentioned, in test matches, or other games of cricket that last 5 days or longer, the lead required to enforce the follow on must be at least 200 runs. However, this rule changes depending on the length of the match:

  • In matches that last 3 or 4 days, the follow on can be enforced if the side batting first has a lead of 150 runs after both teams have batted once.
  • In matches that last 2 days, the first innings lead required for the team batting first to enforce the follow on is 100 runs.
  • In one day games that have 2 innings per team (these are extremely rare), the first innings lead required for the team batting first to enforce the follow on is 75 runs.

To complete my explanation of what the follow on is, I should probably give you a quick practical example, so here goes! First, imagine a test match (lasting 5 days) is being played between England and Australia. England bat first and score 400 runs. Australia then begin their first innings and are bowled out for 150 runs. Now, because England outscored Australia by more than 200 runs in the first innings, the England captain would have the option to make Australia bat again for the second time in a row, or to send their own team back out to bat and try to increase their lead. There are advantages and disadvantages to both of these approaches, so let me take you through those…

What Are The Advantages Of Enforcing The Follow On?

Cricket teams will choose to enforce the follow on and make the other team bat again for a variety of reasons! Here are a few of them:

  • Enforcing the follow on can be a give your whole team a huge confidence boost. Especially your bowlers! It sends a message to them that the captain believes in their abilities to take another 10 wickets!
  • It shows the opposing team that you have the upper hand in the match and you’re aggressively pursuing the win! Because the follow on isn’t enforced that often, it can be a huge psychological blow to the opposition
  • It gives you the chance to get the game over with quicker. Your team may only have to bat once in the game!
  • If the ball is swinging around, and the overhead conditions as well as the pitch conditions are suitable for bowling, it may be wise to enforce the follow on and make the other team bat again. It’s always wise to make use of favourable bowling conditions if you get the opportunity!

What Are The Disadvantages Of Enforcing The Follow On?

There are also a few reasons why captains may choose not to make the other team bat again. Here they are:

  • Making your bowlers bowl again straight after completing a full innings could lead to them getting very tired. If your bowlers are too tired then this could decrease the quality of their bowling, meaning that the other team could rack up a big score in their second innings!
  • Enforcing the follow on will mean that if your team has to bat again, they will be batting last. On pitches that are spinning a lot, or have big cracks appearing in the surface, you may want to avoid batting last as it is the most difficult time to score runs! Instead, you should decline to make the other team follow on and pile up some runs in your own batting innings before making the opposing team bat last on a deteriorating wicket!

How Often Is The Follow On Enforced In Test Cricket?

At the time of writing this post (July 2019), there has been a total of 2314 international test matches played between the major cricketing nations. In these 2314 games, there have only been 380 occasions where a captain has had to choose whether to enforce the follow on or not! This shows you how rarely a team will get themselves in such a dominant position! If it has only happened 380 times in 2314 games, this means that there is only a 16% chance it will happen in any single match!

Out of the 380 occasions where captains have had the opportunity to enforce the follow on, they chose to do so 282 times, and declined it on 98 occasions. This means that when the opportunity is presented, a captain will choose to enforce the follow on 74% of the time!

How Often Does Enforcing The Follow On Result In A Win For That Team?

At the time of writing this post (July 2019) the follow on has been enforced 282 times. This has resulted in a win for the team that chose to enforce the follow on 221 times. This is a win rate of 78%! There have also been 58 draws, and just 3 losses for the team that enforces the follow on!

If you get yourself into this position, you’re not very likely to lose the match!

Other Things To Remember

Not many people are aware of this, but if the entire first day of a match is lost due to bad weather or other similar reasons, then the follow on rules are adjusted to reflect this loss of a day.

For example, if the first day’s play between England and Australia in a test match at Lord’s was completely lost due to rain, the match would now be classed as a 4 day game instead of a 5 day game. As a result, the follow on could be enforced if the side that batted first had a lead of 150 runs after the first innings, instead of the original 200 runs which is needed in a 5 day match.

This adjustment does not apply if a day is lost in the middle of a test match, because once the first day of play begins, the match has been established as a 5 day game.

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