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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 October, 2003, 13:28 GMT 14:28 UK
Cricket gets more complex
By Martin Gough

If you have ever watched a rain-hit cricket match without the slightest clue what your team needs to do to win, brace yourself.

Glenn McGrath worries over the weather
Rain threatened to turn the World Cup final into a farce
It is about to get more complicated.

But the good news is that the system is going to be fairer, thanks to an updated Duckworth/Lewis (D/L) method for revising targets.

The system devised by English statisticians - and cricket enthusiasts - Frank Duckworth and Tony Lewis has proved superior to its predecessors since its introduction in 1999.

In the early days of one-day cricket the calculation was based on scoring rate - favouring the side batting second, who could slog more easily with fewer overs to face.

And the farcical events of the 1992 World Cup, when South Africa were set 21 runs to win off a single ball to beat England in the semi-final, prompted the adoption of D/L.

People have realised that the way of building a maximum total isn't to start as if you're playing a Test match
Frank Duckworth
Critics still gripe about the mathematical formulae and reams of paper involved but Duckworth denies it is overly complicated.

"People who say they can't understand it are usually people who haven't tried," he told the BBC Sport website.

"I've never given a talk to people where by the end they haven't been able to understand it."

A close shave with embarrassment during the World Cup final has seen the system updated to deal with higher totals.

With thunderclouds looming over the Wanderers stadium in March, India were in difficulty at 145-3 after 23 overs, chasing Australia's mammoth 359-2.

But Sourav Ganguly's side could have claimed an undeserved win simply by scoring 12 runs in the next two overs, had the heavens then opened.

Frank Duckworth and Tony Lewis
Frank Duckworth and Tony Lewis are the men behind the method
In the event Australia claimed a third wicket and the rain held off until Ricky Ponting lifted the trophy, but it was enough to prompt a rethink.

Duckworth and Lewis responded by pointing to a formula they came up with in the mid-1990s, which was eventually simplified for ease.

The new version is so complex it can only be implemented with a computer program.

"The original formula was really too complicated to turn into a system that could be operated with a table of numbers and a pocket calculator," Duckworth explains.

"We had to make simplifications but we've always been aware that the assumptions we had to make tend to break down when you've got very high scores.

"And recently there's been a tendency for higher scores to occur more frequently."

Team total, wickets in hand and overs remaining are combined in a formula to form "resources"
When play stops, resources used are calculated
If play resumes, resources remaining are checked
The second figure is subtracted from the first and the formula applied to gain a revised target
Six of the 10 highest scores in one-day international history have come in the last five years, including Australia's showcase display in Johannesburg.

Duckworth says problems still associated with the system are down more to problems in communication than the formula itself.

And he believes initial doubts about the system are ancient history, proven by the feedback he receives attending a dozen games per season.

"Once people met us and realised that we're human beings and not boffins with white coats and test tubes they were ready to embrace what we had to say."

The success of the new "Professional Edition" of the D/L method can only be gauged over time.

But Duckworth dismisses suggestions he and his partner are now the most influential men in international cricket.

"I wouldn't claim that at all, not as much as Freddie Flintoff or Shane Warne," he says.

"We're not in the same category."

Frank Duckworth
"Early on there was a bit of scepticism"

Ruthless Aussies lift World Cup
23 Mar 03  |  World Cup
Duckworth hits back at SA
06 Mar 03  |  South Africa

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