Cricket: Method takes madness out of a rain-hit match

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The Independent Online
THE STORY goes that an English historian found himself held at gunpoint by soldiers on a foreign visit and was asked, in order to secure his release, to explain the game of cricket. The historian took a deep breath and, 11 hours later, finally ran out of things to say. "That's excellent," said one of the soldiers. "Now explain the Duckworth-Lewis Method."

Given the English weather we will be hearing a lot in the World Cup over the next six weeks about Duckworth and Lewis and their method for providing revised targets when a one-day match is affected by rain.

Their system first came about following the fiasco of the 1992 World Cup semi-final when, after an interruption, South Africa found their target to beat England had changed from 22 off 13 balls to 13 off one.

Frank Duckworth, a consultant statistician, subsequently presented a paper on the subject to a conference in Sheffield. His method was perfected by Tony Lewis, a senior lecturer in mathematical studies at the University of the West of England. Their finished formula is now used in most Test- playing countries and is due for ratification after the World Cup.

Through a series of dastardly charts and devious tables, the method tries to maintain any advantage one team has prior to the heavens opening, and is a distinct improvement on previous ideas.

There are two situations which are still likely to cause consternation. The first occurred at The Oval on Wednesday, when Surrey found themselves chasing 258 from 40 overs in order to beat the West Indies' 224 for 6 in the same number of overs (bad weather had forced a change in the number of overs per side after the West Indies had started their innings).

"That's because, for the team batting second, the goalposts have moved, and they knew they'd moved before they went out to bat," Lewis said. "If the first team were pacing their innings to go 50 overs and all of a sudden it's cut short, that's a disadvantage. If you don't know what's happened it does look strange."

The other, even more disturbing scenario, would see one team winning as Kent did in a Sunday League game last year, by 0.71 of a run. Let's just hope it stays fine.