In the game of cricket, a team who batted second and scored significantly fewer runs than the team who batted first may be forced to follow-on: to take their second innings immediately after their first. The follow-on can be enforced by the team who batted first, and is intended to reduce the probability of a drawn result, by allowing the second team's second innings to be completed sooner.
|Traditional sequence||Follow-on sequence|
|1.||Team batting first||1.||Team batting first|
|2.||Team batting second||2.||Team batting second|
|3.||Team batting first||3.||Team batting second|
|4.||Team batting second||4.||Team batting first|
The follow-on occurs only in forms of cricket where both teams bat twice each: domestic first class cricket and international Test cricket. In these forms of cricket, a team cannot win a match unless at least three innings have been completed. If fewer than three innings are completed by the scheduled end of play, the result of the match can only be a draw.
The decision to enforce the follow-on is made by the captain of the team who batted first, who considers the score, the apparent strength of the two sides, the conditions of weather and the pitch, and the time remaining.
The rules governing the circumstances in which the follow-on may be enforced are found in Law 14 of the Laws of Cricket.
During the India national cricket team's 2017 tour of Sri Lanka, in the Second Test, India won the toss and batted first. Sri Lanka batted second, failed to score within 200 runs of India's first innings score, and were forced to follow-on. India won the match by an innings and 53 runs.
India scored 622/9, dec Sri Lanka scored 183, all out Sri Lanka scored 386, all out
This contrasts with the order of innings batted in the First Test of the same series, where Indian captain Virat Kohli had the right to enforce the follow-on, but declined. India won the match by 304 runs.
Law 14 of the Laws of cricket considers the length of the match in defining the minimum lead required for the defending team to enforce the follow-on.
- In a match of five days or more, a side which bats first and leads by at least 200 runs has the option of requiring the other side to follow-on.
- in a match of three or four days, 150 runs;
- in a two-day match, 100;
When the start of a match is delayed by one or more full days, e.g. due to bad weather, the score lead required to enforce the follow-on is reduced accordingly.
However, when a match duration is shortened after it has started, the score lead required to enforce the follow-on remains unchanged.
The follow-on is not automatic; the captain of the leading team decides whether to enforce it. Conventional theory suggests the follow-on is almost always enforced. In his classic text The Art of Captaincy, Mike Brearley deals with the issue in a single paragraph, and finds the advantages overwhelming.
- The main reason to enforce the follow-on is to prevent a draw. Batting last, the chasing side can bat cautiously and use up time to draw the match rather than lose, and the follow-on gives them more time, making that strategy more difficult.
- Enforcing the follow-on can also increase the pressure on the chasing team, since they have already posted an inferior score, and the state of the pitch often deteriorates as a match progresses.
However, there are several reasons for not enforcing the follow-on.
- Most simply, it is tiring for bowlers to bowl for two consecutive innings, and it can be more difficult to dismiss a team in their second innings than it was in their first innings. During the first test of the 1958 series between Pakistan and West Indies on 17–23 January, West Indies batting first declared at 579/9 and Pakistan replied with 106 runs. Pakistan was asked to follow-on on the third day of the six-day match. Mohammed Hanif held his ground for 970 minutes, scoring 337 runs, forcing a draw.
- Declining to enforce the follow-on reduces the defending team's probability of losing. Already with a substantial lead in the first innings, the defending team can score enough runs and/or use up enough time to give the chasing team no chance of victory. This does increase the probability of a drawn result, but it can also demotivate the chasing team who have nothing to play for.
- It is usually a disadvantage to bat last, when the pitch has deteriorated and favours spin bowling.
In recent years there has perhaps been a trend against enforcing the follow-on in Test cricket. Former England captain Andrew Strauss on several occasions took his second innings straight away. It has, though, had some notable successes, for instance at Lord's in the 2009 Ashes series. Here, Australia were 210 behind on first innings but did not follow on; England batted again, set Australia a highly unlikely victory target of 522, and won the game easily. For their part, Australian captains Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting were also notably reluctant to enforce the follow-on, although that was perhaps more to do with wanting to allow Shane Warne to bowl on a deteriorating pitch later in the game. Michael Clarke only enforced the follow-on once in his career as a captain (during his final match in the 2015 Ashes), even when holding a substantial first innings lead due to the risk of tiring his fast bowlers.
Victories by sides not made to follow on
South Africa v Australia, Kingsmead, 1950: In a four-day Test (with one rest day in the middle of the match), South Africa won the toss, chose to bat, and posted 311. The offspinner Hugh Tayfield took 7–23, helping to bundle out Australia for 75, giving South Africa a first-innings lead of 236. South African captain Dudley Nourse elected not to enforce the follow-on owing to forecasts of rain, but in their second innings South Africa folded for 99. Thanks largely to an unbeaten 151 from Neil Harvey, Australia made 336 in 123.6 overs to win by 5 wickets.
ICC Intercontinental Cup – Afghanistan v Canada, Sharjah, 2010: Canada won the toss and chose to bat, scoring 566 in their first innings and bowling out Afghanistan for 264 in reply, giving Canada a first-innings lead of 302 runs. Wicketkeeper-captain Ashish Bagai, who retired hurt in Canada's second innings, declared with Canada on 191–4 after 40 overs to set Afghanistan a target of 494. The wicketkeeper Mohammad Shahzad made 214* as Afghanistan scored 494–4 to win by 6 wickets.
Victories by sides following-on
There have been only three occasions in Test cricket where a team that was forced to follow-on won the match. Incidentally, Australia lost all three matches.
In the first innings of the First Test at Sydney, Australia had scored a massive 586 (Syd Gregory 201, George Giffen 161) and then dismissed England for 325. England responded with 437, leaving them ahead by 176. However, at stumps on the fourth day, Australia were 113 for 2 and looked to be the winners. But heavy rain fell overnight (in this era, pitches were not covered between days of play), and next morning England's slow left-arm bowlers, Bobby Peel and Johnny Briggs, were all but unplayable. England dismissed Australia for 166, winning by 10 runs, and went on to win the series 3–2.
Botham's Test: England v Australia, Headingley, 1981
In 1981, England's Ian Botham was performing poorly as captain against the touring Australians. The Australian team was rated as second only to the great West Indies team of the time, and contained a formidable pace attack in the form of Dennis Lillee, Terry Alderman and Geoff Lawson. After a loss and a draw in the first two Test matches of the summer's six-test Ashes series, Botham resigned the captaincy.
Mike Brearley, the captain Botham had replaced, resumed the reins for the third Test, at Headingley. This started out very badly: Australia scored 401 (John Dyson 102; Kim Hughes 89; but Botham took 6–95), and asked England to follow on after bowling them out for 174 (Lillee took 4–49; Lawson 3–32). The one bright point in the innings came from Botham, who top scored with 50 (his first since he had been made captain 13 matches earlier). In the second innings, Botham came to the crease with England on 105 for 5, still 126 behind. Matters did not improve: Geoffrey Boycott and Bob Taylor soon followed, and with England 135 for 7 and still 92 runs behind an innings defeat looked likely.
By all accounts, everyone on both sides thought the game was lost. Ladbrokes famously offered 500–1 against England winning the Headingley Test. When Graham Dilley joined him at the crease, Botham reportedly said, "Right then, let's have a bit of fun." Botham, with able support from the lower order, went on to make 149 not out, and gave England a slender lead of 129. The next day a fired-up Bob Willis took 8 for 43, and Australia slumped to 111 all out.
India v Australia, Eden Gardens, 2001
Australia, who had won their 16 previous Test matches, including the first of the three-Test series between the two teams, had scored 445 in the first innings of the second Test and restricted India to 171; only V. V. S. Laxman (59) and Rahul Dravid reached 25 runs. The only other bright spot for India was the bowling of Harbhajan Singh, who took 7 for 123, including a hat-trick (Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist, Shane Warne). Australia then enforced the follow-on.
Laxman came to the crease just before the end of Day 3 and proceeded to change the course of both the match and the series by hitting 281, at that time the record for an Indian Test batsman. He did most of his damage partnered with Dravid, who hit 180; the two were at the crease for the entire fourth day. India progressed to 657/7 in their second innings (a lead of 383), declared shortly before lunch on the final day (giving Australia insufficient time to reach the total, thus securing at least a draw). By tea, Australia had scored 161/3, and a draw appeared the most likely result. Then, within minutes, Australia lost five wickets for 8 runs in a span of 31 balls. Harbhajan took the first two wickets in the same over, followed quickly by three wickets from Sachin Tendulkar. Australia proceeded to fall for 212 in the second innings and India won the match. Despite Harbhajan's prodigious bowling—6 for 73 to go with his seven-wicket haul from the first innings—Laxman was named man of the match. India's 171-run victory was by far the largest of the three Test victories by the team following on (both of England's winning margins had been fewer than 20 runs), and it was the only time in history that a side has been able to declare the follow-on innings and still win. India under the captaincy of Sourav Ganguly went on to win the 3rd test, and hence the series, with Laxman contributing half-centuries in both innings and Harbhajan, who was named as man of the series for taking 32 wickets.
County Championship – Warwickshire v Hampshire, 1922
In 1922 at Edgbaston, Hampshire were bowled out for 15 in just nine overs in reply to Warwickshire's 223 in a 3-day match. Hampshire's total is the seventh-lowest score for a completed first-class innings. Hampshire were put back in to bat, and then famously scored a mammoth 521 before dismissing Warwickshire for 158 to win by a comfortable 155 runs. Hampshire's first innings total of 15 remains the lowest score for a completed innings by a winning team.
- 1744: No provision.
- 1787: First known instance; at that time, it was the custom for a side behind on 1st innings to follow-on no matter what the deficit.
- 1835: Compulsory after a deficit of 100 runs.
- 1854: Compulsory after a deficit of 80 runs.
- 1894: Compulsory after a deficit of 120 runs.
- 1900: Made optional, after a deficit of 150 runs in a 3-day match, 100 runs in a 2-day match, and 75 runs in a one-day match.
- 1946: Experimental law allowed declaration on the first day after batting side had scored 300.
- 1951: A side could declare at any time.
- 1957: Above made law. Declarations were not to be made as a result of agreement with the opposing captain.
- 1961: In abeyance in County Championship, but restored in 1963.
- 1980: In the new laws, optional after a deficit of 200 runs in a 5-day match, 150 runs in a 3- or 4-day match, 100 runs in a 2-day match and 75 runs in a 1-day match.
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