November 28, 1979 - The incident that introduced field restrictions in ODI cricket

November 28, 1979 – The incident that introduced field restrictions in ODI cricket

In the 1980/81 season in Australia, the fielding restrictions were introduced for the first time.

England v West Indies
In this match, the England captain, Mike Brearley set all his fielders including the wicket-keeper near the boundary line to prevent a 4 or a 6 on the last ball. (Photo Source: YouTube)

In the current era, there is a consistent debate over the fielding restrictions in limited-overs cricket concerning the number of fielders to be placed outside the circle. At the time of the inception of ODI format, there were no such rules and there was no law that could deny the fielding team from placing all the fielders at the boundary line. One such incident that happened in the late 1970s triggered the concept of the fielding restrictions into the game.

The 1978-79 World Series Cricket was famous for Kerry Parker’s influence ensuring the tournament was played under lights, but not many expected a drastic change with the change in format. The Sydney Cricket Ground was the host of the first-ever International cricket match under lights on November 27 where the home side defeated the two time World Champions West Indies by five wickets. The 2nd game was played at the same venue between West Indies and England the very next day.

West Indies invited England to bat first having failed to defend their total in the previous game. The English side posted 211/8 on the board in their share of overs with contributions coming in from Peter Willey (58), Derek Randall (49) and David Gower (44).

Rain reduced the West Indies’ target to 199 off 47 overs and their top order laid a strong foundation which put the Caribbean side in a cruising position towards a win. Lawrence Rowe (60), Alvin Kallicharran (44) and Gordon Greenidge (42) put West Indies at 133/2 but Derek Underwood cleaned up the middle and lower order with his 4-wicket haul to leave the opposition at 186/9.

All fielders at the boundary

The equation came down to ten runs needed off the last over bowled by England legend Ian Botham. After the chasing team made seven runs in the first five balls, England skipper Mike Brearley decided to push all his fielders to the fence including their wicketkeeper David Bairstow. AS Windies needed three runs from the last ball, Brearley did not want them to concede a boundary on the final ball. Colin Croft, the last man on strike for the final ball got his leg stump uprooted trying to flick a delivery towards the onside.

The history of powerplays

Brearley’s act was well within the rules at that time given there were no restrictions for the field placement but it raised many voices asking for one. In the 1980/81 season in Australia, the fielding restrictions were introduced for the first time. By the 1992 World Cup, the rule was improvised where two fielders were permitted outside the circle in the first 15 overs while five fielders for the remaining part of the game. In 2005, ICC divided powerplays into three parts with first 10 overs being mandatory and two powerplays of five overs each, taken by the bowling side.

Later in 2008, one of the powerplays was awarded to the batting side. After undergoing many changes the current field restrictions in ODIs is– first 10 overs with a maximum of two players outside the circle, the next 30 overs with a maximum of four fielders while the final ten overs with a maximum of five players outside the 30-yard circle.

Watch the video of the incident here: