For years, Duckworth-Lewis has been quietly accepted as something irrevocably wound into the fabric of cricket. Its calculations, but for the particularly astute, remain confusing beyond comprehension.
The numbers it produces are, apart from on the rarest of occasions, accepted as gospel. Results of matches decided by Duckworth-Lewis just pass through the system as any other match would.
But Twenty20 cricket, as it has done for so much of the sport, is changing things.
The Duckworth-Lewis method is a system built on a historical database of matches throughout limited-overs cricket history, calculating and calibrating targets and totals that can be reset following rain delays. It has been applied in 50-over cricket for almost 20 years.
However, the great flaw in Duckworth-Lewis' application in T20 cricket is that it uses statistical evidence from 50-over cricket and applies it to a format that is 30 overs shorter in length. The official reason for this is that there have not been enough T20s played to provide substantial statistical evidence upon which to devise a system.
This does seem hard to believe considering that the format is now more than 10 years old.
However, the issue with Duckworth-Lewis in T20 cricket is not so much the data of its application but more the timing of it. In 50-over cricket, 20 second-innings overs are needed to constitute a match—at which point the Duckworth-Lewis equation is drawn upon.
Requiring 20 overs for a match to become "live" seems just about right. It's short enough to allow a relatively high frequency of results, but it's long enough to ensure the second innings has at least taken some semblance of shape—there is, in other words, justification for a result.
In T20, just five second-innings overs are required to constitute a match. This number is simply too small.
Yesterday's match between New Zealand and England was a prime example of this. Chasing England's 173 to win, New Zealand's innings was cut short after just 5.2 overs with them 52-1. They were deemed to have won by nine runs on the Duckworth-Lewis method.
How exactly those numbers were arrived at for New Zealand's victory is not really the point. The point is instead that New Zealand were able to record a "victory" having batted for only 5.2 overs—all of which were played during the power-play phase of the innings, a factor that Duckworth-Lewis fails to consider.
In 5.2 overs, there are just 32 deliveries of cricket. The innings had hardly taken shape, yet New Zealand were deemed to have won.
Perhaps the crux of the problem is that T20 cricket is just too short a format for Duckworth-Lewis to work. Of course, you could extend the requirement to constitute a match to 10 overs. And the numbers behind the system could be re-calibrated using T20 matches—although even then the data would constantly be becoming outdated.
But ultimately, T20 cricket is a form of the game that simplifies cricket. That demystifies it. That makes it accessible and understandable. Duckworth-Lewis, in any shape it takes on, does nothing but complicate cricket.
I'm not sure what the solution is. Maybe just call rain affected matches "No Results." But I'm increasingly certain Duckworth-Lewis is not the answer.
What do you think? How should rain affected T20 matches be decided? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
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