The Follow-On rule is one of the most important rules in the Test format of the game. Those who follow Test cricket will know that each team bats twice in a Test match that lasts five days. Each Test match has four innings with one team batting first and third innings while the other team bats in the second and the fourth innings of the match. However, the traditional sequence can be made to change using the Follow-on rule.
What is a Follow-On Rule?
The case for a Follow-On appears in the scene after the team batting second falls behind by 200 or more runs of the runs scored by the team batting first. In the second innings of a Test match, the batting team needs to cross the follow-on target which is 200 runs less than what is achieved in the first innings.
However, if the team batting second fails to cross the Follow-On target, the fielding team might ask the batting team to bat again in the Test match. In such a case, the batting team will have to first chase down the deficit and then post a target and defend it in the last innings of the Test match.
For Example: In a Test Match between India and England, if India bats first and scores 550 runs in their first innings, England needs to score at least 350 runs or above to avoid the follow-on. If England manages to score more than 350 runs then there’s no scenario for a Follow On rule. However, if England is bowled out for a score below 350, the Indian team will have the liberty of asking England either to follow-on and bat again or bowl in the third innings. In such a case, the team which makes the decision is usually said to be in the driver’s seat after the first half of the Test match.
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Is the Follow-On rule necessary?
No, the follow-on rule is not a compulsion. It is a decision that is entirely taken by the team batting first if they want to enforce the follow-on or not. This decision is majorly governed by a variety of factors including the time left in the Test match, pitch, the weather forecast, and especially if the bowlers can continue bowling the long spells again.
Three Instances of Victory after a Follow-On
In the history of more than 150 years of Test cricket, only thrice has a team won after following-on in a Test match. Interestingly, on all three occasions, Australia was the losing team. Most recently when a team won after follow-on happened in 2001 at the iconic Eden Gardens. India was asked to follow-on after scoring 171 in response to Australia’s 445. However, the magical partnership between VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid combined with Harbhajan Singh’s hattrick on the last day, propelled India to victory after a follow-on in the Test against Australia.
Recent Trends of Follow-On in Test Cricket
The recent trends of follow-on in Test cricket haven’t been encouraging. These days, most teams don’t prefer to enforce the follow-on rather they tend to bat and post a target for the other team to chase in the fourth innings of the Test match.