Ashes: England & Australia penalized with WTC points deduction for slow over-rates

In a blow to their World Test Championship (WTC) aspirations, England and Australia have been docked 19 and 10 points, respectively, after the Ashes for their slow over-rates during the gripping five-Test series, which ended in a thrilling 2-2 draw.

England's over-rate woes were evident in four out of the five Ashes Tests, falling behind the required pace by two overs in the first Test at Edgbaston, nine overs in the second at Lord's, three overs in the fourth at Old Trafford, and five overs in the last Test at The Oval. Meanwhile, Australia managed to maintain a satisfactory over-rate in four of the Tests but were found to be ten overs short in the fourth Test at Old Trafford.

READ: Full England fixtures 2023

The penalties imposed on the teams resulted in a significant impact on their WTC points tally. England ended the series with a mere nine WTC points, having accumulated 24 points for their two wins and four for one draw but losing 19 points due to the over-rate infringements. Australia, on the other hand, secured 18 points, scoring 24 for their two victories and four for a draw but losing ten points due to the penalties.

These deductions have affected the teams' positions on the WTC table. As of the latest rankings, Australia stands at No. 3 with 30 percentage points, trailing behind Pakistan (100) and India (66.67). Meanwhile, England is positioned at No. 5, below West Indies (16.67) with just 15 points.

Over-rate sanctions from ICC a major blow

The ICC announced the over-rate sanctions for Test cricket during the annual conference in Durban on July 13 this year. According to the new rules, a team will be fined five per cent of their match fee and one WTC point for each over they fall short of the required pace.

The two also faced fines due to their over-rate infractions during the series. While Australia received a 50% fine (for ten overs) for the Old Trafford Test, England was fined 10%, 45%, 15%, and 25% for the respective Tests where they failed to meet the required over-rate.

The deducted points have made the path to the WTC final more challenging for both teams. To qualify for the 2025 final, England would need 151 further points from their remaining 16 Tests, which translates to roughly 11 wins and three draws or 12 wins with no further points penalties. Australia, on the other hand, would require 137 points from their remaining 14 Tests, meaning they would need 10 wins, or nine wins and three draws, or eight wins and six draws.

Rain interruptions during the series might have contributed to the slow over-rates, as fewer overs from spin bowlers were bowled. This issue prompted former Australia captain Ricky Ponting to emphasize the responsibility of match officials in keeping up the pace of play. He suggested that umpires need to get the players organized and ensure smooth transitions between overs to minimize time wastage.

Photo by Icon Sport

Australia and England legends react

“I think the umpires need to start just getting the players around more,” he said on the ICC Review, “Getting them ready, getting them organised, making sure the batter's ready to face up, making sure the bowler is at the end of his mark when the batsman gets back to his crease. We've got to find a way not to be losing so much time in these games.

“I know the cricket has been ultra entertaining. Crowds are not going to be whinging about what they have seen as far as the cricket's concerned, but when you go to a day's play and you expect 90 overs, but you see 80, you have got to be a little bit disappointed.

“I honestly don't know what the answer is but if a team, like Australia did last time, if they miss out on playing in the World Test Championship final just because of a few overs here and there then it is a pretty harsh penalty,” Ponting concluded.

READ: Stokes on leadership and legacy

In contrast, former England captain Nasser Hussain supported stringent penalties for slow over-rates. He suggested that players shouldn't break for lunch or tea until the overs they are meant to bowl are completed, urging umpires to be firm with players to maintain the required pace of the game.

Photo by Icon Sport

“I do think the ICC should continue to be strong with teams,” he said. “Now what that will do is make players get through the day quicker, earlier, because the last thing you want is a three-and-a-half hour last session. The seamers in particular aren't going to be overly thrilled if they have to bowl three and a half hours at the end, so umpires need to be stronger with players.”

The slow over-rate penalties have raised concerns and discussions within the cricketing community about how to address and rectify this issue in the future to ensure a more balanced and exciting game.


Rohit is an experienced cricket writer based in India