Why can't I ask who's winning?

by G.S. Rogers

So this has happened to me before. (Before I learned better.) I’ve been having dinner with my parents and brothers and other ring-in relatives and heated conversations are underway about the merits of various players and what they’re doing or not doing to assist the game everyone’s talking (sometimes shouting) about.

So who’s winning? I’ve asked, innocently. (Trying to be friendly, demonstrating interest.)

Cue groans, forehead slapping and hostile glaring.

Um, what did I do wrong? Why is that such a dumb question?

Well… all in all, it can be hard to tell who is actually winning in cricket, at least until the game is fairly far along. (Unless it’s Australia v West Indies, as the Windies are struggling to reclaim form at the moment and their losses, unfortunately, seem a little easier to predict.)

Normally, a coin is tossed, a team is elected to bat first, and they go out and do the best they can – in that innings.

Then the opposition come in and try their best to exceed the score of the first team.

However, the rate that either team is scoring runs, or how quickly wickets fall, can suddenly change, and with it the expectation of who will actually win the game.

Cricket may sometimes look like a slow game, but in fact, the fortunes of any side can change in an instant, and it’s those instants that will often be the subject of debate and dismay. (And the shouting.)

It does get slightly easier to tell who might be ahead in the second innings of test cricket. If one side has set an unbeatable target, or there is a marked difference in form between teams, then you may start to think you can tell the victor.

But it’s a risk to get cocky. The bottom line is that you never know in cricket whether or not it’s the day for the No.9 batsman to suddenly demonstrate a startling ability to not get out and score a phenomenal amount of runs.

If you’re interested to know, or just keen to keep the conversation friendly, ask not who’s winning, ask instead, “Who’s on top?” And sit back and enjoy the serious consideration this question will be given.