Powerplay For Dummies

A Powerplay is a rule introduced in 2005 concerning fielding restrictions in One Day International (ODI) cricket and designed to give a temporary advantage to the batting side. In the past, there was a 15-over period at the start of an innings when only two fielders were allowed outside the 30-yard circle. This meant that attacking batsmen were likely to score runs quickly in the first 15 overs, because they were able to play aggressive shots likely to result in a boundary at a lower risk of being caught out, but would become more watchful after the end of the spell.

The International Cricket Council (ICC), in its bid to spice up the 50-over version, amended the rules to allow fielding restrictions for 20 overs in an innings, which is divided into three blocks.

The first 10 overs in each innings allow just two fielders outside the 30-yard circle while captains are allowed to have three fielders outside during the other two blocks of five overs each - termed as Bowling Powerplay and Batting Powerplay.


  • The first ten overs in an innings are defined as Powerplay One (P1). The fielding restrictions during this period are exactly the same as per the old ODI rules with only two players being allowed to stand outside the 30-yard circle and two fielders required to be placed in close catching position.
  • The first block of five overs chosen at the discretion of the relevant captain (as described above) is defined as Powerplay Two (P2). The captain has to decide at which point he wishes to implement this rule. He can only implement it at the beginning of an over, provided he informs the umpire. During this period only three fielders are allowed outside the 30-yard circle. However there is no mandatory number of close catchers during this power play.
  • The second block of five overs, with identical parameters to Powerplay Two, is defined as Powerplay Three (P3).
  • A batsman must nominate his team’s Powerplay no later than the moment at which the umpire reaches the stumps at the bowler’s end for the start of the next over. The fielding captain may nominate his team’s Powerplay any time prior to the commencement of the over. The umpire who will stand at the bowler’s end for the commencement of a Powerplay block shall determine which side first made the request.
  • When the relevant side's captain informs the umpire that he wishes to enact a powerplay, the official will signal so by moving his arm in a circular motion.
  • Once a side has nominated a Powerplay the decision can not be reversed.
  • Should either team choose not to exercise their discretion, the remaining powerplays automatically commence at the latest available point in the innings (i.e. at the start of the 41st and 46th overs in an uninterrupted innings).
  • If play is interrupted during the first or second Powerplay and on resumption the overs required to be bowled in that Powerplay have already been exceeded, then subsequent Powerplay(s) will assume to have been taken consecutively up to that point.
  • If play is interrupted during the first Powerplay and resumes during the second Powerplay, the second Powerplay will be deemed to have been nominated by the fielding captain.
  • If following an interruption, on resumption the total number of Powerplay overs for an innings has already been exceeded, then there will be no further Powerplay deliveries bowled in the innings.
    Note that this is the only circumstance under which the Powerplay status can be changed during an over.
  • During the non Powerplay Overs, no more than 5 fieldsmen shall be permitted outside the fielding restriction area.

Impact of Powerplays

The Powerplay was intended to add to the excitement in ODI cricket. If the batting team has got off to a very quick start, the fielding captain is likely to choose to delay the use of their Powerplay, and instead spread out the field to stem the flow of runs. Powerplays may then be taken when an attacking batsman is out, or when the run rate has been reduced. Otherwise, the Powerplay overs are likely to be taken at the conclusion of the first 10 over field restrictions.

When it comes to the batting team's Powerplay, this is most likely taken towards the end of the batting team's innings, usually in the last 5 overs, because the batsman are usually aiming to score quickly, and having only three fielders outside the circle assists this.

However, if the two batsman at the crease are well set early in the innings, or a noted big hitter has come in at the fall of a wicket, the captain of the batting team may decide to take the Powerplay earlier than the last 5 overs, to take advantage of this change in circumstances.

A captain whose team is bowling second may choose not to take their allotted powerplay if the total seems likely to be chased down within 40 overs.

When is the right time to take Powerplays?

Captains have often struggled with the timing of the batting powerplay and teams have lost wickets in a heap to fall short of desired totals in the end.

"Even now teams don't know when to take it. It is a double-edged sword," says former Indian opener and commentator Arun Lal. "Many times it backfires on you and you actually play into the hands of the opposition. It's a difficult thing to master and I haven't seen lot of teams being able to decide when exactly to take it."

The captains mostly prefer to take the bowling powerplay straight after the mandatory first 10 overs of powerplay to take advantage of the hardness of the new ball.

But the jury is out on the ideal time to take batting powerplay.

A lot of teams have waited till the end to opt for the five-over restrictions and some have taken it immediately after the mandatory change of the ball in the 34th over.

"You are supposed to take batting powerplay only when you are in a position to take a few risks," Lal continued.

"You take the powerplay to increase the run-rate and it suddenly changes the outlook of the batsmen and he can then make a mistake."

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