There was rain, and then, there was confusion amidst rain © Getty Images
There was rain, and then, there was confusion amidst rain © Getty Images

December 12, 2012. Big Bash League (BBL) 2012-13 witnessed a bizarre encounter between Melbourne Stars and Perth Scorchers at WACA. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back at a day when Shane Warne’s Stars won a contest sitting in the pavilion — something Australia almost pulled off today against Scotland at ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 at Bellerive Oval.

The logic and science behind the Duckworth-Lewis system has confused many over the years, but it is generally accepted that it is one of the most accurate methods to use during the rain rule. The aspect that usually gets buried amidst the hullabaloo is whether cricket is potent enough to get the best of Duckworth-Lewis.

Rain stopped play during Saturday’s ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 match between Australia and Scotland at Bellerive Oval. Chasing a paltry 131, Australia were stuck on 92 for two after 13.2 overs when rain intervened; they needed a mere 39 from 220 balls, but for that to happen, play needed to resume.

But what if play did not resume? The match would have been declared abandoned, for Australia needed to have batted 20 overs for a result. Funnily, Australia were already ahead of the 20-over target for Duckworth-Lewis (even if they were nine wickets down, their par score was 79 for nine; they were on 92).

All Australia needed was the conditions to be fit. They would then have won the match without walking out to bat. Thankfully, play resumed, no time was lost, and James Faulkner and Shane Watson added 41 in 12 balls to finish things off.

That night at WACA

Over two years back, in a BBL 2012-13 clash between Perth Scorchers and Melbourne Stars, WACA witnessed a similar situation. It was your usual BBL match, full of overseas stars and frenzied fans, bowlers steaming in and batsmen making merry with clubs disguised as willows. There was also Lasith Malinga — steaming in fire in his belly and his golden mane beating against the evening Perth air — crashing into the hapless locals.

Shane Warne put Scorchers in, and the hosts ran into trouble before they could spell S-e-p-a-r-a-m-a-d-u-L-a-s-i-t-h-M-a-l-i-n-g-a. Herschelle Gibbs hit one back to Faulkner in the first over; bowling from the other, Malinga unleashed a yorker that crashed into Marcus North’s off-stump; Faulkner removed Simon Katich; and Malinga had Marcus Stoinis caught at gully. 16 for four.

Warne brought on Clint McKay and then himself. Scorchers had recovered to 50 for four from eight overs, but Warne broke through, trapping Adam Voges leg-before. Malinga was recalled, and two slower deliveries in the space of three balls sent back Hilton Cartwright and Nathan Coulter-Nile. 55 for seven.

Warne kept the next over to two runs as Malinga came on again. Poor Tom Triffitt was left clueless about the slower delivery and was trapped leg-before. Brad Hogg managed a single, but the next ball — a yorker  — ran through the defence of Joe Mennie.

Malinga finished with near-unbelievable figures of 4-1-7-6, including a spell of 1.1-0-2-4. Luke Wright finished things off by having Michael Beer caught at gully. Scorchers were bowled out for a mere 69 from 15.2 overs: it was certainly not going to be a challenge for a batting line-up consisting of Brad Hodge, David Hussey, Glenn Maxwell, Faulkner, Wright, and Rob Quiney.

Quiney got off the mark first ball, and Katich dropped Wright two balls later. Two balls later Wright cut Coulter-Nile for four; the next ball went for five wides; and Wright’s edge fell just short of third-man off the last ball, resulting in a single. Coulter-Nile’s over went for 11.

Mennie came on at the other end, and Wright started off with fours through the cover and past the bowler, a six over long-off, and a four over square-leg. The last two balls did not produce runs. The score read 29 after two overs. Stars needed another 41 from 18 overs with all wickets intact.

Confusion and error

Then came the rain, almost out of nowhere, sending Quiney and Wright back to the pavilion along with the Scorchers. A helpless Warne watched from the pavilion as time ticked by. After a pitch inspection at 7.35 PM, the umpires — Ian Lock and John Ward — announced that play would resume at 7.51, and it would be a five-over contest.

There was, however, a catch. BBL Playing Conditions 12.6.2.b (iii) clearly said: “To constitute a match, a minimum of 5 overs have to be bowled to the team batting second subject to a result not being achieved earlier.” This meant (probably) that Stars had to bat five overs or chase down the target, whichever happened earlier, for a result.

What about the target? The Duckworth-Lewis par score for Stars was a mere six at the end of five overs, and Stars were already on 29. Have they already won the match? If yes, what was the point of waiting for play to begin? Should they not have been announced winners an hour or so back?

After a lot of deliberation, match referee Ric Evans declared that play had to resume, and once a ball was bowled, Stars would be declared winner. So the players and umpires walked out, Cartwright sent down a ball, Quiney let it go to Triffitt behind the stumps, and that was it. Stars won the match by 24 runs.

This caused a lot of confusion. The laws were not clear: if Stars had already won it (they were 24 ahead of the five-over par score), why would they need to come out to bat? On the other hand, if Stars had not already won it, would they have had to share points if play had not resumed after two overs of cricket?

There was a lot of deliberation in the BBL organising committee, following which it was decided that Stars had won the match the moment the ground was declared fit for the match to resume. In other words, Stars had won the match sitting in the pavilion.

To make things more clear, this is what CricketArchive’s report contained: “After the rain delay the umpires deemed that the conditions were fit for a resumption of play to allow for the minimum duration for a definite result of five overs for the second innings. The revised target was 20 in 5 overs and because Melbourne Stars had already passed that score the match was over but the match referee incorrectly sent the players out to face one more ball (a dot ball bowled by Cartwright to Quiney). Cricket Australia later admitted the error and the extra ball was expunged as it affected the net run rate.”

What followed?

–          Despite the humiliating defeat, Scorchers came second in the league, just below Melbourne Renegades. Stars also qualified as the third team, and Brisbane Heat as the fourth.

–          Heat defeated Renegades by 15 runs in the semi-final, while Scorchers pulled off a scorcher (oh well) against Stars. The perfectly scripted revenge came off the last ball with Hussey hitting the winning stroke off Faulkner. Three days later Heat won BBL 2012-13 following a 34-run victory over Scorchers at WACA.

Brief scores:

Perth Scorchers 69 in 15.2 overs (James Faulkner 2 for 16, Lasith Malinga 6 for 7) lost to Melbourne Stars 29 for no loss in 2 overs (Luke Wright 23*) by 24 runs (Duckworth-Lewis method).

Man of the Match: Lasith Malinga

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Chief Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here)