Over (cricket)

Over (cricket)

In the sport of cricket, an over is a set of six consecutive balls bowled in succession. An over is normally bowled by a single bowler. However, in the event of injury preventing a bowler from completing an over, it is completed by a teammate.

An over must consist of six legal deliveries. Wides and no balls do not count toward the six-ball tally. The captain of the fielding team decides which bowler will bowl any given over (subject to the restriction that no bowler may bowl two overs in succession).[1]

At the completion of each over, the direction of bowling reverses, so that the new bowler will approach the batsman from the opposite end of the pitch. Generally, the captain will appoint two bowlers to alternate overs from opposite ends of the pitch until one tires or becomes ineffective, at which point the captain will replace that bowler with another. The period of time during which a bowler is part of such a pair is known as a spell.

In limited over cricket matches, such as one-day cricket and twenty20, bowlers are restricted to the total number of overs they may bowl in a match. The general rule is that no bowler can bowl more than 20% of the allotted overs per innings. Thus, in a 50 overs match, each bowler can bowl up to a maximum of 10 overs. Similarly, in a twenty20 match, one bowler can bowl a maximum of 4 overs, and the length of the game is determined by the total number of overs bowled (usually 40 or 50 per innings and just 20 overs per innings in Twenty20). In Test and county cricket, teams are usually required to bowl a minimum number of overs per day to prevent spoiling of the game by a slow over rate. Captains and teams are regularly punished for going at a slower rate than the required rate. The punishment often comes in cutting the match fees or banning from games.

A maiden over is one in which no runs are scored. Leg byes and byes scored in over are not counted for maiden over. A wicket maiden is one in which no runs are scored and one wicket is taken. Double and even triple wicket maidens can also be scored, albeit seldom in occurrence.


Tactical considerations in bowling overs

The over is a fundamental consideration in the tactical planning of the fielding side. Since a single bowler has only six legal balls to bowl before he must hand the ball to another bowler, he typically plans to use those six balls to set up a pattern of play designed to get a batsman out. For example, he may bowl the first few balls with the same line, length, or spin. He intends to tempt the batsman into scoring runs by providing balls that are relatively easy to hit. If the batsman takes the bait, the bowler can then follow up with a variation designed to hit the wicket, or a ball that is intended to induce a mistake from a batsman who is still in aggressive run-scoring mode, which will result in him being caught out. The latter type of delivery is known as a sucker ball.

Cricket authorities also impose penalties on captains if their players bowl their overs at a very slow rate,[2] such as fines, loss of competition points, and match bans. As a result, if a team is proceeding slowly, some captains will choose to use slow/spin bowlers. Such bowlers have a shorter run up so they complete their overs more quickly. Often this means choosing an inferior strategy by employing a less skillful bowler to avoid penalties that are perceived to be greater, such as being banned or losing points.

Tactical considerations in batting

If the two batsmen are not similar, tactical considerations may affect their play. If one batsman is stronger than the other, they may attempt to engineer their scoring so that the stronger batsman faces the bowling more often. This may take the form of the stronger batsman trying to score an even number of runs on early balls in the over and an odd number on the last ball; the weaker batsman will attempt the reverse, and the bowler will try to disrupt this pattern.

If one batsman is right-handed and the other left-handed, they may try to score odd numbers of runs to disrupt the bowling pattern and tire the fielders by making them reposition themselves frequently.

Historical number of balls per over in Test cricket

Modern day Test cricket (since 1979/80) has been played all over the world with six balls per over. However, Test cricket started with 4 balls per over and has had varying number of balls per over around the world up to 1979/80, generally the same as the number of balls per over in force in other first-class cricket in that country.[3]

Balls per over

In England

  • 1880 to 1888: 4
  • 1889 to 1899: 5
  • 1900 to 1938: 6
  • 1939 to 1945: 8 (though not in the "Victory" Tests)[4]
  • 1946 to date: 6

In Australia

  • 1876/77 to 1887/88: 4
  • 1891/92 to 1920/21: 6
  • 1924/25: 8
  • 1928/29 to 1932/33: 6
  • 1936/37 to 1978/79: 8
  • 1979/80 to date: 6

In South Africa

  • 1888/89: 4
  • 1891/92 to 1898/99: 5
  • 1902/03 to 1935/36: 6
  • 1938/39 to 1957/58: 8
  • 1961/62 to date: 6

In New Zealand

  • 1929/30 to 1967/68: 6
  • 1968/69 to 1978/79: 8
  • 1979/80 to date: 6

In Pakistan

  • 1954/55 to 1972/73: 6
  • 1974/75 to 1977/78: 8
  • 1978/79 to date: 6

In India, West Indies, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and the United Arab Emirates (venue, not host) all Test matches have been played with 6 ball overs.


  1. ^ The Laws of Cricket (2000 Code 4th Edition - 2010) Marylebone Cricket Club, Law 22 THE OVER
  2. ^ The Laws of Cricket, Law 42.9 "Time wasting by the fielding side"
  3. ^ Cricket: A History of its Growth and Development throughout the World. Rowland Bowen. Eyre & Spottiswoode (1970). v. Index entry "Overs", p409
  4. ^ Bowen, p348

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