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What Is a Powerplay in Cricket?

By CricketersChoice Editors

Powerplay rules in cricket allow a specific number of fielders outside of the 30-yard circle for a set period. These fielding restrictions last for a set number of overs per innings, depending on the cricket format being played. In T20 cricket, the powerplay lasts for the first six overs of each team’s innings and, in ODI (or 50-over matches), it is in place for the first 10 overs. In test cricket, where there is no specific number of overs per innings, the powerplay is not used.

The powerplay is a modern addition to the rules in limited over cricket. Since the invention of one day cricket in the 1970s, rules about the number of fielders and where they can be placed has changed multiple times. When the powerplay was first introduced in 2005, fielding restrictions for the bowling team became more unified.

Despite its widespread use in cricket, the powerplay is a rule that divides opinion in the cricket community. It is also a rule that can be difficult to understand. The International Cricket Council (ICC) have made numerous, significant changes to the powerplay rules since 2005,

However, the powerplay is a central part of modern cricket, and it has had implications for both the batting and the fielding teams in limited over cricket.

What Is the Purpose of Powerplay in Cricket?

The purpose of the powerplay in cricket is to give the batting team an advantage for a determined period in a match. The powerplay is an evolution of various cricket rules on fielding restrictions that have changed over time. 

When one-day cricket was first played on the international stage in 1971, players struggled to adapt to the aggressive playing style required in limited-overs. But it was more of a challenge for the batsmen. Players were more comfortable with the disciplined, slow scoring nature of test cricket and found it difficult to score at pace. 

As a result, ODI cricket did not initially have the desired effect of entertaining and drawing in a large fanbase. The batting team was more used to defending their wickets, rather than taking risks and scoring quickly. 

In an attempt to coax batters to play more aggressive cricket, field restrictions were implemented in the late 1970s and early 80s in limited over cricket. In these early tweaks to the fielding rules, only two players were allowed outside of the 30-yard circle for the first 15 overs of each innings. But despite these rules being used in various matches from the 1980s, they weren’t formally introduced until 1995. 

When the fielding restriction rules were rolled out more widely in international cricket, problems soon occurred. While the beginning of a team’s innings encouraged batsmen to start scoring runs quickly, the batting team often reverted to tight, defensive cricket between overs 16 and 50. Consequently, the International Cricket Council invented the powerplay rule in 2005 that forced more attack minded cricket across the entire match. 

The powerplay now reduced the two fielders outside the inner circle rule to 10 overs, and the captain of the fielding team could choose any time in the match to introduce two more powerplays, which lasted for five overs each. It is a rule that has been used in one day cricket consistently since 2005, but various tweaks and alterations have taken place to the powerplay rule over time. 

What Is the Difference Between Batting Powerplay and Bowling Powerplay?

Three years after the powerplay was invented, the ICC changed the rules and introduced a batting powerplay alongside the fielding powerplay. 

The batting powerplay gave a further advantage to the batting team, allowing them to choose when the opposition had to use their second or third powerplay in the match.

Again, the rule change was designed to give the batting team a further advantage over the fielding team, encouraging the batsmen to score more runs at different periods in a match. 

But problems existed with the batting powerplay. Most batting teams enforced the powerplay between the 46th and 50th overs (also known as the death over), which led to batting teams losing wickets quickly in the final overs of matches and led predictable and less entertaining periods during matches. 

In an attempt to rectify the problem, the ICC changed the rules again in 2012 for the batting powerplay to be taken in the 36th over to prevent late aggressive play from all batting teams. But the rules were short lived.

In 2015, the batting powerplay was scrapped by the ICC in favour of the mandatory powerplay. This rule is still in place today, and each powerplay takes place in different periods of the game. 

The introduction of the mandatory powerplay has shifted the balance from a batting advantage to a bowling advantage because the fielding team can still choose when to take their two five over powerplays in a match. 

How Long Does Powerplay Last In Cricket?

Different rules apply in T20 and ODI cricket for the length of a powerplay. Under the new ICC rules, which were first implemented in 2015, powerplays have to be taken at pre-determined times in ODI cricket, with specific restrictions. However, in T20, there is one mandatory powerplay through each innings. 

Below is an overview of the length of fielding restrictions introduced during a powerplay for ODI and T20 cricket.

  • T20: The first six overs of each team’s innings. During this period, only two players are allowed outside of the 30-yard inner circle area. After the opening six overs, a maximum of five fielding players can be positioned outside of the inner circle. There is only one powerplay in T20 cricket, and no selective powerplays exist in this form of cricket. 
  • ODI: The first 10 overs of each team’s innings make up powerplay one (often called P1). During this time, only two fielders are allowed outside the inner circle. The second (P2) and third (P3) only last for five overs. But, in powerplay two (which has to be taken between overs 11-40) four fielders are allowed outside the inner circle. In powerplay three (taken between overs 41-50) five players are allowed outside of the 30-yard circle. Team captains decide when the powerplays are taken and they cannot take P2 or P3 outside of the allotted overs. 

How Many Overs Are There in a Powerplay?

In T20 cricket, there is a maximum of six overs in the powerplay, which are mandatory at the beginning of each team’s innings. But in ODI, 50-over cricket, 20 powerplay overs are spread out across spells of 10 overs at the start of the innings, and two lots of five overs, which have to be taken at set times in an innings. 

These rules apply widely to limited over international cricket matches and competitions. However, national cricket competitions have different rules for limited over cricket. For example, in the Australian T20 League, the Big Bash, the six-over powerplay period was replaced with the four-over powerplay at the beginning of an innings, and two selected powerplays later in the innings.

Conclusion

Powerplay rules in one day cricket have evolved a lot over the past 50 years. It is now a central rule in modern one-day cricket. 

In recent years, the ICC has strived to find the best balance between batting and bowling advantage in ODI and T20 cricket. But, regardless of the ICC’s intentions to make cricket more entertaining, teams have adapted on the field to form match strategy and tactics on powerplay overs, which can impact the outcome of a game. As a result, the powerplay is possibly one of the most influential rules in limited over cricket today. 

Although the ICC has encountered problems with the powerplay since its introduction in 2005, it will likely remain a key rule in ODI and T20 cricket in the future. But there could be more tweaks and alterations to level the playing field for batting sides again in later years.