What is a super over in cricket? As with most sports, cricket has a way of breaking a tie when it comes to certain match formats. For those matches which do fall under its purview, the Super Over is the ultimate eliminator to determine the winner of a limited-overs match.
The Super Over has made its way into cricket via the Twenty20 and the One Day formats. Any tied matches in such fixtures (depending on the format of a given competition) are settled through a superover, which as the name suggests is an extra over per-match, per team.
The history of the Super Over in cricket is relatively short compared to how long the sport has actually been around. Cricket was first played during the 16th century and the advent of a Super Over was only introduced in the 2000s.
As with a penalty shoot-out in football, the cricket Super Over is intense, dramatic and usually headline-grabbing. This sudden-death format is a tremendous spectacle for fans of the game while it heaps new pressures on the players.
In this guide, we take an in-depth look at what is a cricket Super Over, the history of it, some of the biggest moments that it has produced in the game and some of the key rules.
The dawn of the cricket Super Over
The development of the limited-overs formats in cricket, namely the One Day Internationals and Twenty20 matches, have given rise to new rules and tournaments in the sport.
Those modern developments have helped to raise the popularity and professionalism of the sport. Twenty20, in particular, has attracted a wide new audience and with those developments have come new rules, such as the Super Over which was first introduced in 2008.
The first time that the International Cricket Council (ICC) installed the Super Over for the One Day International format was at the 2011 Cricket World Cup.
It was a relatively big shakeup to the game at that level, as it replaced the bowl-out method of deciding a drawn match.
The Super Over was incidentally, never used in the 20211 Cricket World Cup despite a drawn group stage match between England and India. That’s because it was only set to be used for matches in the knockout stages.
This tie-breaking feature of cricket has since worked its way into other major international and domestic competitions.
Firsts for the Cricket Super Over
- 1st Twenty20 Super Over – December 26th, 2008 West Indies beat New Zealand
- 1st ODI Super Over – July 14th, 2010 England beat New Zealand
- 1st Women’s Super Over – February 1st, 2020 England beat Australia
Out goes the Bowl-Out
The introduction of cricket’s Super Over saw it replace the Bowl-Out. The previous tie-breaking format of a bowl-out was a strange and somewhat anticlimactic finish to a cricket match when it was used.
In a bowl-out, it was all down to only bowlers to decide the fate of a game. Selected bowlers (five per team) would bowl at a wicket with no batsman in play. A point was scored for hitting the wicket, reminiscent of a player scoring from the penalty spot in football.
If things were tied after the five selected bowlers had had their chance in the Bowl-Out, things went to sudden death in the same format against an unguarded wicket.
What is a Cricket Super Over and How Does It Work?
It is the rules that naturally define just what’s a super over in cricket, in terms of how it determines the fate of the match.
Throughout different competitions, since the cricket Super Over was introduced, there have been slight variations of the theme.
But the standard format of the eliminator installed by the ICC is as follows. First, a Super Over comes into play only if two teams are tied up at the end of a limited-overs match.
It is the team that batted second in the fixture which gets to bat first in the Super Over and each team nominates three batsmen.
For a Super Over each team will then bowl six balls at the other team, essentially playing an extra over each.
The team that scores the most runs from their respective Super Over wins the match.
5 Key Rules of a cricket Super Over
- 3 batsmen and 1 bowler are nominated per team
- A player cannot bat and bowl in a Super Over
- The team bowling first select the bowling end
- The team batting second in the match bats first in the Super Over
- Any used ball from the match can be selected for play
Cricket’s most famous Super Over?
In the final of the 2019 Cricket World Cup between host nation England and New Zealand, some astonishing sports news was created. There was a remarkable finish to the match.
The World Cup Final was hosted at Lords and dramatically the two nations were tied up on 241 runs at the end of the regular innings.
So the match needed a Super Over to settle who got the Cricket World Cup. There was no bigger stage on which it could have happened, adding to the intensity.
England went first and produced 15 runs from their six balls. In response, New Zealand had a chance off their final ball to score the winning run. But batsman Martin Guptill was run out leaving both nations with 15 runs each scored from their respective Super Overs.
But England were awarded the title, due to a secondary tie-breaker which was the boundary countback. England had scored 9 more boundaries in the match than New Zealand had.
That was the first time ever that a One Day International in cricket had been settled by a Super Over.
A super Super Over?
Since the dramatic conclusion of the 2019 Cricket World Cup, the ICC has moved to install changes to what will happen in tournaments organised by them.
In ICC tournaments if there is a Super Over during the group stage and the scores are still level after that, the match will be declared a tie.
But once things get to the knockout stage of a competition, then there will be a Super Over in the instance of a tie.
If things are still tied after the initial Super Over, then another Super Over would be played and so on until the match is finally settled.
It is kind of like a football penalty shoot out going to sudden death.
The First Super Over in History
It was in 2008 that the Super Over was introduced into cricket and it was in that very year that the first instance of it happened.
That sports news history-making moment was in a Twenty20 match between New Zealand and the West Indies.
It was the touring West Indies that came out on top as the drama of that first Super Over in cricket unfolded on December 26th.
West Indies batted first and put a strong score of 25/1 on the board. In response, New Zealand could only manage 15/2.
So the West Indies became the first-ever team to win a match via a Super Over in international cricket.
The Twenty20 format of cricket has produced many more instances of a Super Over at the international level than the One Day International format has done.
The first instance of Super Over being used in the womens’ game was on February 1st, 2020 when England beat Australia in Canberra.
Do the stats stack up?
Any cricket fan knows and understands that it is a sport with which statistics are heavily integrated. It makes for a fascinating part of the game and those stats can help determine the form of current players.
Interestingly, any runs scored in a Super Over innings do not count towards a player’s career statistics. So runs scored by a batsman in a Super Over aren’t tallied up for their career, similarly, no wickets for a bowler are counted.
This may divide camps, because after all, taking a wicket or smashing a six out of the ground, are in-game achievements earned by players. But of course, not every player in a team gets to participate in a batting or bowling capacity during a Super Over in cricket.
There is a precedence in sport and again, the correlation with football penalty shootouts can be taken. Players scoring in a penalty shootout don’t have that goal counted towards their career tally of goals.
Cricket Super Over FAQs
Is the same ball or a new ball used in a Super Over?
A brand new ball is not used in a Cricket Super Over. The team that gets to bowl first selects from any of the balls that were used during the match. The team that bowls second can use that ball or select a different one.
Why is there no traditional coin toss for Super Over
No coin toss is needed for a Super Over because the rules determine that the side batting second in the match will bat first in the Super Over. The team bowling first chooses the bowling end.
Are reviews allowed in a cricket Super Over?
Teams playing in a Super Over get one review per innings. This is an unsuccessful review, meaning that if a team challenges a decision (like an LBW call) and it’s determined that the on-field decision by the umpire is wrong, the review is retained. If a challenge is made and the umpire’s decision was right, the review is lost.
Can a player bowl and bat in a Super Over?
A team captain has to nominate four players to take part in a Super Over. That’s three batsmen and one bowler. Therefore no player can be selected to both bowl and bat during the event.