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What is a super over in cricket and how does it work?

Jake Nichol October 26, 2021
New Zealand v England - ICC Cricket World Cup Final 2019
Photo by Gareth Copley-ICC/ICC via Getty Images

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ODI and T20I cricket matches are sometimes decided by a super over but what is it, when is it needed and how does it work?

Cricket super over explained

In shorter, white-ball forms of cricket, matches are sometimes tied at the end of the regulation 20 or 50 overs.

Should a tie happen in a knockout match – where someone has to win – a super over will be used to determine the winner.

For example, a super over wasn’t used in the 2011 ODI World Cup match between England and India because it was a group game.

Both finished on 338 at the close of their innings – and shared the points.

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When it is used, a super over is similar to overtime in the NFL, NBA, NASCAR or extra-time in football/soccer – further play is required to determine the winner.

The team that batted second in the regulation match will bat first in the super over.

Each team must nominate three batters to take part.

Should a team lose two wickets in their super over, their innings draws to a close.

The scoreboard resets so teams have zero runs and have lost zero wickets, no matter what happened in the match.

They are given one over – a minimum of six balls – to score as many runs as they can.

Once the first team’s over is over, so to speak, the other team takes its turn to beat their score.

Should they get more runs, they win.

Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images

Changes to the super over

Perhaps the most famous example of a super over in cricket came in the 2019 ODI World Cup final.

England and New Zealand were tied – somehow – at the end of the regulation 50 overs, with each side scoring 242.

To decide the world champions, a super over was required.

England batted first, with Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler guiding England to 15/0.

Martin Guptill and James Neesham responded for the Black Caps, reaching 14/0 with one ball to go.

Guptill required two to win the World Cup for New Zealand, while England needed to limit him to just one.

The New Zealander got his one, but was run out trying to get the all important second run.

The super over ended in a tie at 15/0, with England winning the World Cup due to scoring more boundaries in the match.

This prompted a rethink from the International Cricket Council (ICC) as it seemed unfair on the New Zealanders.

Now, should a super over be tied, as it was at Lord’s, another round will be played.

This will continue until there’s a winner.

What about Test cricket?

Super overs are not part of Test cricket.

In Tests where there isn’t a winner it is simply referred to as a draw.

However, Tests can be tied.

This is where both teams have lost their allotted 20 wickets for the same amount of runs.

It has happened only twice in the history of Test cricket.

The first came in 1960 between Australia and the West Indies.

Played at The Gabba, both teams made 737 runs across their two batting innings.

The next tied Test also featured Australia – in 1986.

Playing India in Madras (now Chennai), the two teams made 744 runs apiece.

Australia could have won the match as captain Allan Border declared on 574/7 in the first innings.

Had he gone on a little longer, Australia might have had enough to win.

Photo by Allsport/Getty Images

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Jake can usually be found writing about or watching anything to do with motorsport – from Formula 1 to NASCAR to British Truck Racing. His work as a motorsport journalist has been published by the likes of Autosport, Motorsport.com and Motorsport News – all highly respected names. Away from racing he is a keen amateur astronomer, podcast listener and enjoys long walks in the park with his three dogs.