Test cricket matches are four-innings matches that stretches over several days (but isn’t continuously played around the clock). According to the Wisden Dictionary of Cricket by Michael Rundell, it is called Test cricket because the long format is a test of the relative strength of the two teams. Endurance is a very important factor in Test cricket, since matches often last up to five days.
In accordance with the rules of the International Cricket Council (ICC), Test matches are only played by national representative teams with Test status. Each team consists of 11 players.
Test matches are included in first-class cricket.
Test match vs. Twenty20
In many parts of the cricket playing world, the number of spectators for Test matches are decreasing in favour of other cricket forms, especially Twenty20 cricket where a typical match is completed in roughly three hours and tend to have a much faster pace of scoring.
At the time of writing, ten national teams have Test status. Except for England and the West Indies, all of them represent individual nations. Earlier, the England team would represent all of Britain, but nowadays it only represents England and Wales. The West Indies represents 10 Caribbean nations and 5 dependencies.
It is up to the ICC to decide if a team will be granted, and maintain, test status.
|Team||Date of first Test Match||Information|
|England||15 March 1877|
|Australia||15 March 1877|
|South Africa||12 March 1889||South Africa was suspended from international cricket from 1970 to 1991 due to the governments policy of apartheid.|
|West Indies||23 June 1928|
|New Zealand||10 January 1930|
|Pakistan||16 October 1952||Prior to 1947, the territory that is now Pakistan was a part of India and thus had Test status.|
|Sri Lanka||17 February 1982|
|Zimbabwe||18 October 1992||Zimbabwe was voluntarily suspended from Test cricket in 2004-2005 and then again in 2006-2011.|
|Bangladesh||10 November 2000||Prior to 1971, the territory that is now Bangladesh was a part of Pakistan (and earlier India) and thus had Test status.|
In January 2014, the ICC announced the ICC Test Challenge. In the ICC Test Challenge, the winner of the ICC Intercontinental Cup will play a 5-day match against the lowest ranking team with Test status. If the ICC Intercontinental Cup winner wins the 5-day match, they can be awarded full ICC membership and receive Test status.
Test matches are always scheduled for at least three days, but this does not mean 72 hours of continuous play. On each day, there is normally three playing sessions, each two hour long.
This is an example of a format commonly used in England:
|11 am – 1 pm||Play|
|1 pm – 1:40 pm||Lunch|
|1:40 pm – 3:40 pm||Play|
|3:40 pm – 4 pm||Tea|
|4 pm – 6 pm||Play|
With this format, there is a 10-minute interval between changes of innings. Also, a short break of roughly 5 minutes may be taken during each session, typically after one hour of play, to give the players a chance to rehydrate.
The time table is not strict, and can be adjusted for various reasons such as:
- If bad weather strikes close to a scheduled break, the break may be taken immediately.
- If playing time has been lost, e.g. because of unsuitable weather, session times can be modified to compensate for lost time.
- If a change of innings occurs close to a scheduled break, the break may be taken before the change.
- If the batting side is nine wickets down at the scheduled tea break, the interval may be deferred until either half an hour has elapsed or the team is all out.
- If 90 or more overs have not been bowled in that day (subject to any reduction for adverse weather), the final session of the day can be extended by up to half an hour. This is however not allowed on the 5th day of a match.
Until the 1980’s, a Test match would typically include a day of rest (usually a Sunday).
Test cricket is normally played as a series of matches between two countries. One of the countries is the host country, and all of the matches will be played in that country. There are however notable exceptions to this bilateral nature of test cricket: the 1912 Triangular Tournament between England, Australia and South Africa (England was the host) and the Asian Test Championship. The Asian Test Championship was first held in 1998-99 and then again in 2001-02. The first even included teams from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The second event also included a team from Bangladesh, which had been granted Test status by the ICC in November 2000.
Traditionally, umpires for Test matches were provided by the host country. This changed in the early 1990s, when the ICC started providing umpires for test matches. This was in turn a part of a much larger strategy by the ICC, one that aimed to maintain public interest in Test cricket despite ever increasing competition from one-day cricket. The ICC introduced a rotation system for Test cricket that ensures that all ten Test teams will play each other over a six-year cycle. An official ranking system was put into place, with a trophy being awarded to the highest ranking team.
In order to fulfil their task of providing umpires for Test matches, the ICC established an elite panel consisting of eleven cricket umpires. This panel is supplemented by an International Panel with three cricket umpires named by each Test-playing country. The elite panel takes care of most of the Test matches, with the International Panel being called in only when the cricket calender is very busy or when umpires are needed for one-day internationals (ODIs).