A team that batted second and scored significantly less runs than the team that batted first may be obliged to follow-on — to bat their second innings directly after their first. The follow-on, which can be used by the team that batted first, is intended to decrease the possibility of a tie by speeding up the second team’s inning.

When was Follow-on in Test Cricket First Observed?

It was common for any team trailing in the first inning to bat again, regardless of the deficit (follow-on in the case of the team batting second), when the first incidence was recorded in 1787. Additionally, in 1980, the rule was optional following deficits of 200 runs in a five-day match, 75 runs in a one-day match, 150 runs over three or four days, and 100 runs over two days.

What is Follow-on in Test Cricket?

A follow-on rule in Test cricket mandates that the team batting second begin their second innings right away after the conclusion of their first one. Only if the team batting first achieves at least 200 runs in the first innings of a Test can the follow-on be imposed.

The follow-on only occurs in versions of cricket where each team typically bats twice, such as domestic first-class cricket and international Test cricket. In many forms of cricket, a side cannot win a match until at least three innings have been played. The game must end in a tie if fewer than three innings have been played before the scheduled end of play.

Who Decides on a Follow-on?

The captain of the team that batted first in the match makes the decision to impose the follow-on. If his/her team is in command and can get a result sooner by bowling out the opponent twice within its first innings total, the captain may decide to go for the follow-on.

What is the Bare Minimum of Lead Required to Compel Follow-on?

The lead necessary for teams to enforce the follow-on in accordance with the length of the match is defined in Law 14 of the Laws of Cricket.

For five-day or longer tests, a team must have a lead of 200 or more to enforce the follow-on.

In domestic First-Class cricket events such as the Ranji Trophy, a side must have a 150-plus lead to force the follow-on. In two-day cricket, the required lead is 100 runs; in one-day cricket, it is 75 runs.

Benefits of Requiring a Follow-on in Test Cricket

The major reason for imposing a follow-on is to force a result and eliminate the draw by placing greater pressure on the opposition because they have already produced a below-par score.

It also has a significant impact on the bowlers’ morale because they are tasked with taking another ten wickets with momentum on their side after only recently defeating the opposition batters.

This method also sends an aggressive message to the opposition and can be psychologically beneficial by putting them on the back foot after being bundled out cheaply once.

Disadvantages of Requiring a Follow-on in Test Cricket

While there are a few disadvantages, one of the most significant is the possibility of bowlers burning out after completing one whole innings. The bowlers may not be at their best right away in the second inning, allowing the batting squad to become comfortable and score runs.

Enforcing a follow-on also means you will have to bat last, which may not always be the best decision considering the wear and tear of the surfaces on the final few days of a Test. Widening fissures and a failing surface aid opposing bowlers more, and batting last to win a Test match is sometimes a challenging idea. 

And in 2001, one such incident happened where the team that enforced follow-on lost the Test match on the last day.

India Vs. Australia Kolkata 2001 Test Match

Australia scored 445 runs in the first innings of the second Test and limited India to 171 runs, with only V. V. S. Laxman scoring 59 runs and Rahul Dravid scoring 25 runs. Harbhajan Singh’s bowling, which included a hat-trick of Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist, and Shane Warne, was India’s sole bright light. 

Australia then imposed the follow-on.

India advanced to 657/7 (a lead of 383) in their second innings before declaring soon before lunch on the final day. Australia had scored 161/3 by tea, and a draw appeared to be the most likely outcome. Then, in the space of 31 balls, Australia lost five wickets for eight runs. 

When Australia was dismissed for 212 in the second inning, India won the match. India’s 171-run triumph was by far the largest of the team’s four Test victories.

The hosts turned the tables on the Aussies and returned after being asked to follow-on to achieve a historic triumph. And it was the third time in history that a team won the Test match after being asked to follow-on.

The legendary 2001 India versus Australia Test in Eden Gardens, Kolkata, is one classic example of a side winning a match after being asked to follow-on. Such incidents have caused captains to reconsider their strategy of enforcing the follow-on, despite the fact that being able to do so generally signals which side is in control of the match.

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