Is World Cup 20 overs or 50 overs?

The format of the ICC Cricket World Cup tournament has varied over the years, with the number of overs per innings changing multiple times. Let’s take a quick look at the history and evolution of the World Cup format.

Quick Answer

The upcoming ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 will be played in the 50 overs per innings format. Each team gets to bat for 50 overs unless they are bowled out earlier. This has been the standard ODI format used in World Cups since 1992.

History of World Cup Formats

The first four Cricket World Cup tournaments held from 1975 to 1987 were played in the 60 overs per innings format. Each team batted for 60 overs unless bowled out earlier.

This was changed to 50 overs per innings starting with the World Cup 1992 held in Australia and New Zealand. The 50 over format has continued to be used in all World Cups after that.

There was an experiment with a 20 over World Cup when the ICC Champions Trophy was reformatted into the ICC World Twenty20 tournament in 2007.

However, the World Cup itself has remained a 50 over event throughout. The next World Cups scheduled for 2023 in India and 2027 in South Africa and Zimbabwe will also be 50 over contests.

Reasons for Reducing to 50 Overs

The 60 overs per innings format was becoming exceedingly time consuming for ODIs. An average 60 overs innings would last around 3 hours, leading to most matches going well past the 8 hour mark. This was becoming an issue for viewership and attendance.

The ICC thus decided to standardize the shorter 50 overs per innings format for ODIs globally starting in the 1980s. This reduced the duration of matches to an average of 7 hours, making it more viewer friendly.

When the World Cup expanded to more teams and matches in 1992, the 50 over format was adopted to ensure matches and the tournament could be completed within an acceptable timeframe.

Advantages of 50 over Cricket

The 50 overs format brought some key advantages compared to 60 overs per innings cricket:

  • Shorter match duration of around 7 hours instead of 8+ hours.
  • More exciting with teams having fewer overs to score runs.
  • Tactically more challenging for teams with aggressive batting required.
  • Easier for audiences to follow compared to longer 60 over matches.

The 50 over World Cup format tested since 1992 has proven very popular with high viewership and attendance. It provides the right balance between the excitement of limited overs cricket and allowing each team enough overs to play out an innings.

Why 20 Overs Was Not Adopted

Twenty20 cricket with 20 overs per innings was introduced by the England Cricket Board in 2003 to attract younger audiences. Its fast paced, big hitting nature made it an instant hit.

However, the ICC determined that T20 cricket was too short for the marquee World Cup event which tests teams over a longer course. 50 overs was seen as the best compromise between meaningful innings and match durations.

The ICC did launch a separate ICC World Twenty20 tournament in 2007 which has been held every 2 years. But the World Cup has retained the traditional 50 over format.


The 50 overs format for World Cup matches starting in 1992 was a pivotal move by the ICC. It has made the tournament more compact and viewer friendly compared to the 60 overs per innings era.

The right balance of reducing innings length while allowing teams enough overs to play substantial knocks has made 50 over cricket very popular and the ideal ODI format.

While T20 World Cups provide excitement of short fast paced cricket, the 50 over World Cup aptly rewards teams with the endurance, skills and tactics to excel over the longer course of an ODI innings and match.

This winning formula is set to continue with 50 overs per innings remaining entrenched as the only format used in ICC Cricket World Cup tournaments now and for the foreseeable future.

Key Differences Between World Cup and T20 World Cup Formats

Comparison Factor World Cup (ODI) T20 World Cup
Overs per innings 50 overs 20 overs
Duration per innings Around 3 hours 90 minutes
Duration per match Around 7 hours 3 hours
Tactical complexity Moderate to high Low to moderate
Batting style Balanced attacking and defending Aggressive big hitting
Bowling strategy Mix of pace, spin, swing, seam Mostly limited overs pace
Fielding intensity Moderate overall Very high

This comparison summarizes the main variations between the 50 over World Cup format and the fast paced 20 over T20 World Cup format.

World Cup Winning Scores in Different Eras

Here is a look at the winning scores in various World Cup finals over the years, to indicate how scoring rates have evolved with different formats.

Year Format Winning Team Score
1975 60 overs West Indies 291/8 (60 overs)
1979 60 overs West Indies 286/9 (60 overs)
1983 60 overs India 183 (54.4 overs)
1987 60 overs Australia 253/5 (50 overs)
1992 50 overs Pakistan 249/6 (50 overs)
1996 50 overs Sri Lanka 245/3 (46.2 overs)
1999 50 overs Australia 133 (31.1 overs)
2003 50 overs Australia 359/2 (50 overs)
2007 50 overs Australia 281/4 (38 overs)
2011 50 overs India 277/4 (48.2 overs)
2015 50 overs Australia 186/3 (33 overs)
2019 50 overs England 241 (50 overs)

This table illustrates how scoring rates increased gradually from the 1975 to 1987 World Cups played in 60 over format. The switch to 50 overs in 1992 led to more acceleration. By the late 1990s, average scores were already approaching 300 runs in an innings. The modern era is seeing consistently high scoring rates above 5-6 runs per over on average.

Batting Strategy Changes

Batting strategies in ODI cricket have evolved significantly, enabled by the switch from 60 to 50 overs in 1992.

60 Over Era

With 60 overs available, batting was largely centered around building an innings gradually and preserving wickets for late hitting.

Scoring rates of 3-3.5 runs per over were common till the 40-45 over mark after which big hitting would start.

50 Over Era

The reduced quota of 50 overs forced teams to start aggressing earlier in the innings. Scoring rates of over 4 runs per over became more common.

Batsmen now looked to consolidate but also find boundaries regularly from the start.

With fielding restrictions imposed in ODIs through the 90s, aggressive batting became easier.

Modern Era

From the late 1990s, opening batsmen started taking advantage of fielding restrictions to attack from ball one.

Scoring 300+ totals regularly also forced teams to bat more aggressively throughout the innings while preserving wickets.

Run rates of over 5 runs per over through most of the innings are now common.

This evolution shows how the switch from 60 to 50 overs forced innovation in batting strategies.

Bowling Strategy Changes

The bowling tactics and approach in ODIs also changed significantly after 1992.

60 Over Era

Bowling attacks had the luxury of time, often opening with slower medium pacers and spinners.

Bowlers focused on economy rates, with attacking bowling coming only later in the innings.

50 Over Era

The shorter 50 over span forced quicker changes of bowling to create wicket taking opportunities.

More aggressive bowling was required throughout, with greater use of pace, swing and seam options.

Bowling rotations had to be quicker to attack the batsmen.

Modern Era

From the late 1990s, ODI bowling became significantly pacier with most teams picking 4 pacers on average.

Reverse swing and the yorker were used liberally by fast bowlers to counter big bats and heavy bats.

Bowling attacks had to get much smarter in concealing variations on flat batting pitches.

The 50 over switch thus made ODI bowling faster, smarter and much more attacking through the years.

Fielding Innovations

The fielding dimension in ODIs also increased in energy and innovation over the years after the 50 over shift.

60 Over Era

Fielding was considered more of a support function to help create dot balls and wait for batsmen’s mistakes.

Ground fielding was sluggish, with little urgency to stop twos and threes.

50 Over Era

The arrival of Jonty Rhodes along with an influx of natural athletes raised ODI fielding standards.

The importance of saving runs, creating wicket opportunities and lifting team energy increased.

Restrictions forcing 4-5 fielders inside the ring made close-in fielding critical.

Modern Era

ODI teams now prioritize athletic and enthusiastic fielders, with top standards across positions.

Cutting off boundaries, sharp catches and run outs, direct hits and saving runs are highly valued.

ODI fielding has been transformed from the sedate 60 over era into a high stakes, high energy facet today.

Impact on Viewership and Revenues

The switch to 50 over cricket also had significant business impacts for the sport.

Attendance and Viewership

Shorter match durations drew larger live crowds at stadiums and higher TV viewership per match.

Higher scoring rates and more aggressive cricket created greater engagement.

Commercial Revenue

The World Cup 1992 was a commercial success and increased sponsor interest in ODI cricket.

Broadcast and media rights deals for ODI cricket grew significantly through the 1990s.

Making ODIs more TV friendly thus drove up the sport’s revenues substantially.

Innovation Culture

The switch catalyzed teams to innovate in all aspects – batting, bowling, fielding, tactics.

This made ODIs more dynamic and paved the way for the T20 revolution from 2003.

Overall, adopting 50 over ODI cricket was a breakthrough move for revitalizing cricket viewership and economics globally.

Key Cricket Rule Changes in the 50 Over Era

Some important rule changes and innovations also came into ODI cricket along with or after the 50 over format was adopted:

Colored Clothing

The traditional white apparel was replaced with colored uniforms starting in World Cup 1992. This added vibrancy for television audiences.

White Ball

From World Cup 2015, all ODIs switched to white balls instead of red balls. This provided better visibility under lights for night matches.


Fielding restrictions during mandatory powerplay overs were introduced, added to strategic complexity.

Free Hit

The free hit rule for no-balls, introduced in 2008, tilted the scales further in favor of aggressive batting.

Two New Balls

Starting in 2011, mandatory use of two new balls, one from each end, forced quicker scoring in early overs.

These innovations accompanying 50 over cricket have collectively made ODIs an intensely competitive spectacle today.

Importance of 50 Over Cricket

While T20 cricket gains immense popularity as the shorter format, 50 over ODI matches remain very relevant today and will continue to hold importance in the future.

ODIs allow for more nuanced battles between bat and ball, and greater ability for contests to swing depending on conditions and strategies.

50 over cricket tests a wider range of skills – defensive techniques, building an innings, bowling variations, close in fielding.

Bilateral ODI series between rival nations will retain interest andcontext even as T20 leagues grow.

The ODI World Cup will likely remain the premier event in cricket based on history and high engagement it generates.

Providing the ideal balance of sporting and entertainment qualities, 50 over cricket is here to stay as a top international format.

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