What is a Powerplay in Cricket? (Basic Rules You Need to Know)

Fielders standing in the 30-yard circle during an ODI match

Whether it’s T20 or ODI, Powerplay has been a buzzword ever since its inception. It has made the game of cricket really exciting. The concept of Powerplay can be a bit overwhelming to understand at first especially with all the changes in its rules throughout its history! But, powerplay in cricket can be easily understood with a little understanding of the basic rules. But, what is a powerplay in cricket?

Powerplay is the term given to a set of overs with special fielding rules during a limited overs cricket match. During a powerplay, only 2  fielders are allowed outside the 30-yard circle for the first 10 overs in an ODI match and first 6 overs of a T20 match. There are no powerplay rules in a Test Match.

If the 30-yards circle seems a bit confusing for you, don’t worry, we will get to it in detail later in the post. We’ll also take a look at the basic rules of a powerplay, and everything else there is to know about it.

How does a Powerplay Work?

Powerplay is a period of a specific set of overs of an ODI or a T20 innings which is governed by a rule that dictates the positions of the fielders. Different rules are applicable to different types of cricket matches. 

The rules for the powerplay have changed several times over the years. Thus, it is easy for people to get confused with the rules of the powerplay. Let us first understand the basic rules – 

Rules Of Powerplay in ODI Matches 

As per the latest powerplay rules indicated in the ICC Playing Handbook, 

  • Mandatory Powerplay (First 10 overs): In an uninterrupted 50 overs ODI match, the first 10 overs of the innings allows a maximum of 2 fielders outside the 30 yards circle. 
  • From 11th to the 40th over: In overs 11 to 40 of the innings, maximum of 4 fielders are allowed outside the 30 yards circle.
  • In the last 10 overs or overs 41 to 50: A maximum 5 fielders are allowed outside the 30 yards circle.

It is important to note that the number of overs during each powerplay get altered during an ODI match that is affected by rain.

Rules Of Powerplay in T20 Matches 

The rules for powerplay in T20 matches are pretty easy-to-understand. 

  • Overs 1 to 6: A maximum of 2 fielders are allowed outside the 30 yards circle.
  • Overs 6 to 20: A maximum of 5 fielders are allowed outside the 30 yards circle.
  • Leg side rule: A maximum of 5 fielders are allowed on the leg side at any given point in time throughout the match.

The Powerplay rules for the World Cup are the same as they are for ODIs and the rules for IPL are the same as they are for T20 cricket.

History of Powerplay in Cricket

The rules of powerplay in T20 matches have been the same and have not changed thus far. However, powerplay rules in an ODI match have had an interesting series of changes. 

When the limited overs format was introduced in the 1970s, the batsmen found it difficult to come out of the Test-Cricket mindset of defending the ball and scoring slowly. 

An example of this was that of Indian opening batsman Sunil Gavaskar who once batted through the 60 overs of the match and managed to score only 36 runs in 174 deliveries that he faced. He remained not out in that innings. This innings is considered as one of the slowest innings in a limited overs match!

This type of performance in an ODI match just can not be imagined today!

The batsmen often played really defensively, and their goal was to preserve their wicket rather than score runs. 

To overcome this challenge and to make the game more exciting, the concept of fielding restrictions was introduced. 

Introduction of Field Restrictions in 1980s

The rules for restrictions in setting the field were first introduced during an ODI in 1980 in Australia. The restrictions set limitations on the number of fielders that could be set outside the 30-yard circle.

As a result of these restrictions – 

  • The batsmen realised that the best opportunity to score runs easily would be during the phase when the field restrictions were enforced. Thus, they started taking some risks in order to score runs as a tradeoff. 
  • Since the restrictions were during the first few overs, it also allowed the bowlers to take more wickets initially as the batsmen who were taking risks were not well settled.

This made the game more exciting. The most notable example was that of Sir Vivian Richards who played a naturally attacking game. 

These field restrictions did not have any particular name and the term “Powerplay” was not used then. 

Changes to the Rules of Field Restrictions in 1992

In 1992, International Cricket Council (ICC) introduced a few minor changes to the rules of field restrictions. 

As per the new rules, the bowling team needed to have at least 2 fielders in the “catching position” during the phase of the field restrictions. 

The catching position was set as a circular area on the cricket field with a radius of 15 yards drawn from the wickets on the pitch as the centre. Thus, there were two circles of 15 yards each on either side of the pitch with striker’s end and the non-striker’s end as the centre respectively. 

The earlier rules of field restriction remained. This means, the fielding team was allowed a maximum of 2 fielders outside the 30 yard circle when the fielding restrictions were active. 

Introduction of Powerplay and the Rule Changes in 2005

With the onset of T20 cricket (which was referred to only as Twenty20 in the initial days), the term “Powerplay” was introduced in international cricket matches. 

In 2005, not only did ICC name the field restriction rule to Powerplay, there were also some interesting changes made to the rule itself! A few key changes that were made are as follows – 

  • The number of overs under the powerplay (overs with field restrictions) were increased from 15 overs to 20 overs.
  • These 20 overs of the powerplay were divided into 1 set of 10 overs and 2 sets of 5 overs each. 
  • The mandatory “2 fielders in catching position” requirement was reduced to 10 overs from the earlier rule of 15 overs. This was applicable only during the first 10 overs of the innings. 
  • An element of uncertainty was introduced. The bowling team was now allowed to choose the 2 sets of 5 over powerplay anytime between overs 11 – 45. 

This was also the first time the term “Mandatory Powerplay” was introduced. Since the initial period of the first 10 overs had compulsory field restrictions, it was known as a “Mandatory Powerplay”. 

Allowing the bowlers to choose the powerplay meant that the fielding captain could assess the situation and decide when to take the powerplay.

For instance, if the opening batsmen were scoring at a good rate in the mandatory powerplay, the captain could postpone the optional powerplay until one of the two batsmen got out.

Similarly, if a team lost a few wickets during the middle overs, the fielding captain could “slip in” the powerplay overs intelligently by catching the batting team off guard.

Although the uncertainty brought novelty to the game strategies, it’s main purpose was not achieved. Besides some exceptional matches, the bowling team mostly finished both the powerplays by the 20th over and the remaining period of the middle overs (21-40) remained largely unaltered. 

This led to another set of changes to the powerplay rule. 

Powerplay Rule Changes in 2008

In 2008, the major change to the powerplay rule was that the batting team was now given a chance to choose the period of one of the two 5 over powerplay. 

The objective of introducing this change was to accelerate the rate of scoring runs during the middle overs as well. Mostly, the batsman would score runs quickly initially, and then wait for the last 10 overs to accelerate the rate of scoring runs. The middle period created a lull moment during the match. 

Therefore, by allowing the batting team to choose the powerplay, the hope was that if at any time in the middle overs, the two batsmen are well set, they could take the Powerplay and still exploit the death overs still. 

Initially, the introduction of the batting powerplay showed some positive results. But, there were also cases of the batting team losing a lot of wickets in the batting powerplay overs. Since they had to suddenly change their strategy of scoring runs faster (the usual middle over strategy) by hitting aggressive shots, it often didn’t work.  

This resulted in the batting teams taking their stipulated powerplay in the last 5 overs of the match when the batsmen didn’t have much to lose and would go after the bowlers anyway.

Since this defeated the purpose of the batting powerplay, a new set of changes were introduced. 

Powerplay Rule Changes in 2012

In order to ensure that the batting powerplay did not coincide with the death overs (the last 10 overs of an ODI innings), ICC made some minor changes to the powerplay rule. 

Firstly, in 2011, ICC made it mandatory for both the batting and bowling powerplay to be taken strictly within the overs 16 to 36, however, the batting and bowling powerplay could not coincide with each other. 

This was followed with another change in the following year. 

In 2012, ICC reduced the number of Powerplay to 2. A mandatory powerplay during the first 10 overs of the innings along with a batting powerplay to be taken between the overs 16 to 36 by the batting team. This change was also accompanied with a reduction in the maximum number of fielders outside the 30-yard circle to 4 (previously 5) during the non-powerplay overs.

Aaron Finch of Australia celebrating a century
Aaron Finch celebrating a century

These changes meant that batsmen started scoring at a much faster rate throughout the match. 

It also reflected in the scores during that era. Some of the highest scoring ODI matches till date were played during this period. 

These changes gave an unfair advantage to the batsman and the bowlers struggled. This led to another set of changes to the powerplay rule. 

Current Powerplay Rule (Revised in 2015)

The rules were changed once again to bring the balance back to the game. These rules remain in place till date (at the time of writing). 

The changes are as follows – 

  • A total of 3 powerplays now exist in an ODI match.
  • All the 3 powerplays are a mandatory powerplay. No batting or bowling powerplay exist anymore. 
  • The first powerplay is of 10 overs, the 2nd powerplay is of 30 overs and the 3rd powerplay is of 10 overs. 
  • Also, the requirement of minimum 2 fielders in catching positions in the first 10 overs has been removed. 

Allowing an extra fielder outside the 30-yard circle in the last 10 overs has helped the bowlers. Overall, these changes seemed to have restored the balance between the batting and the bowling team.

What is Batting Powerplay in Cricket?

A Batting Powerplay in cricket was the term assigned for the set of 5 overs chosen by the batting team during an innings in which field restrictions could be enforced upon the bowling team.

The batting powerplay was first introduced in 2008. However, as mentioned above, the batsman often risked losing their wickets during the batting powerplay in an effort to increase the scoring rate. As a result, most teams would take the batting powerplay from over 46-50.

Later ICC, made it compulsory to use the batting powerplay by the 36th over. However, in 2015, the batting powerplay was scrapped and replaced by the mandatory powerplay.

What is Bowling Powerplay in Cricket?

A Bowling Powerplay in cricket was the term assigned to the set of 5 overs chosen by the bowling team in which the field restrictions would be enforced upon the bowling team

The bowling powerplay was introduced in 2005. However, the term “Bowling Powerplay” was only assigned upon the introduction of batting powerplay in order to differentiate the two set of powerplay overs.

The bowling powerplay rule was scrapped in 2012 by the ICC.

What does P1, P2 & P3 mean in terms of Powerplay in Cricket?

Terms P1, P2 & P3 are quite common today with respect to the powerplay in cricket. These are terms assigned to the three powerplays. Let’s understand what these are –

P1 stands for Powerplay 1. P1 is the mandatory Powerplay, applicable for the first 10 overs of the ODI inning. Only two players are allowed outside the 30-yard circle. 

P2 stands for Powerplay 2. P2 Powerplay allows not more than four fielders outside the 30-yard circle. It is usually applicable from overs 11 to 40 during an ODI match.  

P3 stands for Powerplay 3. This Powerplay gives the bowling team a chance to bring some balance back during the death overs (overs 41 to 50). It allows the fielding team to have a maximum of 5 fielders outside the 30-yard circle.

What is a 30-yard Circle in Cricket?

The 30-yard circle is an imaginary circle on a cricket field which influences the fielding restrictions during a powerplay overs in the limited overs cricket. The 30 yards circle is measured with both ends of a cricket pitch as centre. Then, an imaginary circle encapsulating the two 30 yard circle is created.

The above image showcases the various circles that are present on a cricket field.

The 15 yard circle defines the fielders in the catching position. These are also known as the close-in fielders.

The 30 yard circle plays an important role in mandating the fielding restrictions during a powerplay in a limited overs cricket match.

Is There Any Powerplay in Test Cricket?

There is no powerplay in test cricket. Test matches typically run for over 5 days and the batting team are allowed to bat as long as they want to. Therefore, rate at which a team is scoring is not that important. Entertainment during the test matches is very different. A test match examines the patience, discipline, and skills of every player on the field.

Final Thoughts

Powerplay definitely adds a new flavour to the game. The powerplay not only makes the game more exciting for the spectators, but also makes the balances tilt during a game.

I hope with this information, the rules are now more clear to you. Be sure to bookmark this page and read through once again the next time you are watching a cricket match!

Shrot Katewa

Shrot is an avid cricket fan! He has played and endorsed the sport ever since he was in School. In fact, he played as a professional cricketer represented his state team in National Indoor Cricket Championship held in Pune, India. Shrot loves the game, loves talking to other people who play the game and share his learnings with other interested individuals. He is the founder of CricketMastery.com. This website is a culmination of his desire to help others understand this wonderful Game of Cricket!

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