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Explainer: How does Net Run Rate work? Inside cricket's tiebreaker

Will Toogood,
Publish Date
Thu, 2 Nov 2023, 2:18pm

Explainer: How does Net Run Rate work? Inside cricket's tiebreaker

Will Toogood,
Publish Date
Thu, 2 Nov 2023, 2:18pm

Net Run Rate (NRR) is the preferred tiebreaker for one day international cricket tournaments. With the Black Caps now having suffered three successive Cricket World Cup defeats, NRR comes into play for their semifinal prospects. But how is it calculated?

NRR is to cricket what goal difference is to football. Sports fans are not renowned for their grasp of mathematics, so the term can be misunderstood, but it’s relatively simple to understand – if not so simple to implement.

A team’s NRR is calculated by deducting their average runs conceded per over from the average runs scored per over. In essence, teams with a higher NRR have scored more runs than they concede and vice versa.

For an example we will use New Zealand’s opening two matches of Cricket World Cup 2023:

Runs for

New Zealand 283/1 in 36.2 overs (v England) - (36.2 overs is actually 36.33 overs in real maths – 36 overs have been completed, plus one third of the 37th)

New Zealand 322/7 in 50 overs (v Netherlands)

New Zealand runs scored = 283 + 322 = 605 in 86.33 overs

New Zealand runs per over (for): 605 / 86.33 = 7.007

Runs against

England 282/9 - 50 overs (v New Zealand)

Netherlands 223 all out - 46.3 overs (v New Zealand) - (actually 46.50 overs)

New Zealand runs against = 282 + 223 = 505 in 96.50 overs

New Zealand runs per over (against): 505 / 96.50 = 5.233

The equation

New Zealand’s Net Run Rate: 7.007 - 5.233 = 1.774

As was the case in the Black Caps loss to South Africa, if a team is bowled out in fewer than 50 overs, the calculation is based on the full quota of overs to which they would have been entitled and not the amount of overs in which they were dismissed.

As things currently stand, New Zealand have a NRR of 0.484. Their closest competition is Pakistan who are sitting at fifth on the table and have an NRR of – 0.024, meaning on average they have conceded more runs per over than they have scored.

This means Saturday’s match between the two has serious semifinal implications beyond the win and loss column. A win for the Black Caps would all but assure them a semifinal appearance, but a big loss like the one they suffered at the hands of South Africa could push their NRR lower and Pakistan’s higher – pushing the tiebreaker in Pakistan’s favour.

Interestingly, this exact scenario happened at the 2019 Cricket World Cup, when the Black Caps and Pakistan both finished on 11 points and their positions on the table came down to NRR.

Will Toogood is an online sports editor for the NZ Herald. He has previously worked for Newstalk ZB’s digital team and at Waiheke’s Gulf News, covering sport and events.

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