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England and Australia have been docked 19 and ten World Test Championship (WTC) points respectively for their slow over-rates over the course of the five-Test Ashes series, which ended 2-2.
At the end of the series, England were found to have been behind the ask in four of the five Tests: by two overs in the first Test at Edgbaston, nine in the second at Lord's, three in the fourth at Old Trafford, and five in the last Test at The Oval.
As for Australia, they did fine in four of the Tests, but were ten overs short at Old Trafford.
As a result, England ended the series with just nine WTC points (24 for two wins and four for one draw, minus 19 for the over-rate penalties), and Australia 18 points (24 for two wins and four for the draw, minus ten). That left Australia at No. 3 on the WTC table, with 30 percentage points, behind Pakistan (100) and India (66.67), while England were at No. 5, below West Indies (16.67) with 15 points.
The latest over-rate sanctions for Test cricket, announced at the ICC annual conference in Durban on July 13 this year, are that a team will be fined five per cent of their match fee and one WTC point for each over they are found short by.
England also had a rough time of it with the fines. While Australia were handed a 50% (for ten overs) fine for the Old Trafford Test, England were fined 10%, 45%, 15% and 25% for the four Tests they fell short in, respectively.
The penalties have complicated the two team's paths to the WTC final. India, who finished second on the 2021-23 WTC table, qualified for the final having won 58.8% of the points they contested. Keeping in mind 60% as a rough target for qualifying for the 2025 final, England would need 151 further points from their remaining 16 Tests - which would mean roughly 11 wins and three draws, or 12 wins (and no further points penalties, needless to say).
Australia would need 137 points from their remaining 14 Tests to get to a roughly 60% mark, which would mean 10 wins, or nine wins and three draws, or eight wins and six draws.
In comparison, India - who have won one and drawn one of their two Tests so far in this cycle - will need a further 121 points from their remaining 17 Tests to get to the 60% mark. That's just over seven points per Test, a far less daunting task than England's 9.4 points per Test (A win gives a team 12 points, a tie six points, a draw four points, and a defeat zero points).
Speaking before the final Ashes Test, Pat Cummins had said, "This series has been a bit of an outlier I think. We haven't had any over-rate sanctions over the last few years until this series. It feels like this one has been played at a different pace. It's something we need to speak about in ODI cricket as well, when you're setting fields the time can run out pretty quickly.
"It feels like there's different plans every second over, or every over, every couple of balls. One batter might have a totally different plan to another one. So there's lots of field movement. [There is] a lot more fast-bowling overs than there ever has been. No Nathan Lyon [from the third Ashes Test onwards]. A combination of those things.
"This series is maybe that little bit higher-pressure, and it's not only the fielding side but you see the batters taking that little bit of extra time."
In a series where rain was an almost constant presence, there weren't a lot of overs from spin bowlers, which could have been a reason for the slow over-rates. For England, Moeen Ali and Joe Root, their main spin options, bowled a total of 179.1 overs. Stuart Broad alone bowled more than that: 184.2. For Australia, Nathan Lyon bowled 66 overs in the first two Tests before going out with an injury, and Todd Murphy, who played the last two Tests, bowled 38.2 overs. That's a total of 104.2. Pat Cummins (158.4), Mitchell Starc (128.1) and Josh Hazlewood (111) all bowled more overs, Starc and Hazlewood in just four appearances each.
Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting placed the onus on the match officials to keep up the pace of play. "I think the umpires need to start just getting the players around more," he said on the ICC Review, "Getting them ready, getting them organised, making sure the batter's ready to face up, making sure the bowler is at the end of his mark when the batsman gets back to his crease. We've got to find a way not to be losing so much time in these games.
"I know the cricket [in the Ashes] has been ultra entertaining. Crowds are not going to be whinging about what they have seen as far as the cricket's concerned, but when you go to a day's play and you expect 90 overs, but you see 80, you have got to be a little bit disappointed.
"I mean at the World Test Championship final, by the evening session on day three, one whole session of play had been lost. Two hours of play have been lost over three days and I just don't know where it goes and I'm not sure what the right punishment is.
"I honestly don't know what the answer is but if a team, like Australia did last time, if they miss out on playing in the World Test Championship final just because of a few overs here and there then it is a pretty harsh penalty."
Former England captain Nasser Hussain, on the other hand, was fully in favour of stringent penalties for slow-over rates. "I do think the ICC should continue to be strong with teams," he said before adding that players shouldn't break for lunch or tea until the overs they are meant to bowl are bowled. "Now what that will do is make players get through the day quicker, earlier, because the last thing you want is a three-and-a-half hour last session. The seamers in particular aren't going to be overly thrilled if they have to bowl three and a half hours at the end, so umpires need to be stronger with players."