Cricket World Cup 2019: week 3, update #4—Don’t shoot the DLS

The fourth of an informal weekly (p)review of the 2019 Cricket World Cup – or, as I like to call it, the #Champ10nsTrophy.

It wouldn’t be a World Cup without some rain-rule controversy. South Africa still haven’t haven’t forgotten their 22-from-0.1 semi-final fiasco in 1992 (although, in truth, they didn’t deserve to win that game, after their excessively slow over rate; they’d had the better of the regulations up to that point).

Some may feel that Pakistan had the rub of the green against them (which will naturally happen, of course, if your ODI kit is that colour) in today’s game, whose Duckworth-Lewis-Stern adjustment left them needing 136 runs in 5 overs rather than 170 in 15. This simply isn’t the case. DLS yielded a sensible target, despite first glances.

It’s crucial to understand that Duckworth/Lewis does not calculate how many further runs the chasing team should have to score; it calculates the target. This may seem like a coat-of-varnish distinction but the difference becomes more understandable when one realises that the target is not affected by the batting team’s current score, only their wickets and overs remaining.

In other words, Pakistan would have had to chase 302 from 40 overs, regardless of whether they were 16-6, 66-6, 266-6, or, as it transpired, 166-6.

The par score—the score at which the two teams could be said to be neck-and-neck—for six wickets down at 35 overs was 252-6. Being 166-6 meant they were 86 runs behind the par score, and naturally enough, on resumption they therefore weren’t in any sort of position to chase 136 in 5. If the game had been abandoned without those 5 overs, they’d have lost by 86 runs.

After playing those 5 overs, Pakistan actually lost by 89 runs. Remember that they were 86 behind the par score. In other words, the target nigh-on perfectly preserved the teams’ relative positions. If they’d been up with the par score, and scored the same runs in those 5 overs (46, for the record) that they ended up scoring, they’d have lost by 3 runs —again demonstrating how well-balanced the DLS target was.

Don’t blame DLS for the faintly absurd conclusion. If you must blame something (and does one really need to do so?) blame:

  • Pakistan’s batsmen for being 86 runs behind the par score at the interruption.
  • The regulations that forced the teams to continue playing five futile overs.
  • Limited-overs cricket, that forces teams to go on playing when the result is a forgone conclusion. Talking of conclusions, this’ll do.