Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Test cricket

Test Cricket is the longest form of the sport of cricket. It is regarded by players and serious fans as the ultimate test of playing ability (as compared to one-day international cricket). Test matches are played only between national representative teams which have test status as determined by the International Cricket Council, though the closely related first-class cricket involves domestic matches. Only 10 countries of the world have been given test status, the most recent addition Bangladesh (in 2000) also being the most controversial.

Note: Most of the information here pertains to men's cricket. Test matches are also played in women's cricket. Unless explicitly mentioned, most test matches or test cricket referred to is in regards to men's cricket.

Table of contents
1 List of nations playing test cricket (having test status)
2 Conduct of the game
3 Competitions
4 History

List of nations playing test cricket (having test status)

(Date of start of first test match (test debut) in bracket)

1. Australia and England (15th March, 1877)
3. South Africa (12th March, 1889) (Note: Banned from cricket due to racist policies (apartheid). Rerecognised 1991)
4. West Indies (23rd June, 1928)
5. New Zealand (10th January, 1930)
6. India (25th June, 1932) (Note: pre-1947 India included Pakistan and Bangladesh. See History of India.)
7. Pakistan (16th October,1952) (Note: pre-1971 Pakistan included Bangladesh. See History of Pakistan)
8. Sri Lanka (17th February, 1982)
9. Zimbabwe (18th October, 1992)
10. Bangladesh (10th November, 2000)

Conduct of the game

Test Cricket

Test cricket is played over five days, with three sessions of two hours (usually interspersed with a 40-minute break for lunch and 20-minute break for afternoon tea) per day.

(For the purposes of this discussion, the team batting first will be termed "team A", with their opponents called "team B")

If the follow-on is enforced: If the follow-on is not enforced or cannot be enforced: Finally, if both teams end up being dismissed twice with the same combined totals, the game is a tie. With the comparatively high scores in cricket, only two ties have occurred over the entire history of several thousand test match games. Both matches are regarded as amongst the most exciting ever played.

The decision for the winner of the toss to bat or bowl first is based on the an assessment of the relative strengths and weaknesses of the team and the conditions of the wicket. Most of the time, wickets tend to become hard to bat on as the game nears its conclusion, and players bat more poorly after the fatigue of four solid days of cricket, so teams usually prefer to bat first. However, sometimes the conditions at the very beginning of the match particularly suit fast bowling, so if either team has particularly strong set of pace bowlers, the winning team may choose to bowl first (either to take advantage of their own attack or to disallow the opposition the use of the "green" wicket).

The rationale for declaring an innings closed prematurely may be confusing for cricketing neophytes, but it is often a sound tactic. Remember that to win a game, the losing side must be given the opportunity to complete two innings - if they do not do so, no matter how many runs they may be behind, the game is a draw. Therefore, a team with a large lead will declare so as to give themselves time to bowl at the opposition and take all their wickets.

First Class Cricket

All Test matches are technically considered "First Class." First class matches are characterized by two innings per team and a limit of days rather than overs. Some other procedural requirements apply for First Class matches; for instance, a match is never first class if the home board of cricket (for domestic matches) or the International Cricket Council (for international ones) does not recognize it as such.

A first class match played domestically has the same rules as test matches, except for the number of days of play and the follow on rule. Normally, the matches are conducted over three or four days. However, the laws allow for two or one day first class matches as well. The follow-on minimum lead requirement in first class cricket is:

If the whole first day of play is abandoned without a ball being bowled, then the day is ignored for the sake of calculating follow on. For example, if the first day of a four-day match is abandoned due to weather or other reasons, then the match is counted as a three-day one for the sake of determining follow on. (This would not make a difference in four-day matches because the follow on requirements for four and three days is the same.) Note that only the first day can be ignored in this calculation. If more than one day is abandoned, the second and subsequent days are still counted for the calculation of follow-ons. Furthermore, only the first day's abandonment changes the requirements.


Test cricket's competition structure has evolved somewhat idiosyncratically due to the length of time matches take, its status as one of the earliest professional spectator sports, and the wide geographical distribution of the teams.

Until recently, series between international teams were organised between the two national cricket organisations. Umpires were provided by the home team, and, at most, perpetual trophies (of which the Ashes is most famous) were traded between teams when series were won or lost.

However, with the entry of more countries into Test cricket competition, and the desire to maintain public interest in Tests (which was flagging in many countries with the introduction of one-day cricket), a new system was added to Test match competition. A rotation system which sees all ten Test teams playing matches against each other over a five-year cycle, and an official ranking system and a trophy held by the highest-ranked team was introducted. It is hoped that the new ranking system will help maintain interest in Test cricket in nations where it holds less spectators interest than one-day cricket. However, the rankings' idiosyncratic and complicated rules lead to few fans being able to understand the system. This, in turn, has led to general disregard for the ratings among most fans.

Nowadays, umpires are provided by the International Cricket Council, the governing body of the game. An "elite panel" of eleven umpires has been established, and the panel is supplemented by an additional "International Panel," which includes three umpires named by each test playing country. The elite umpires officiate almost all the test matches; the International Panel is only employed when the cricketing calendar is filled with activity, or for One Day Internationals.


The Nineteenth Century

The first test match was played between England and Australia on March 15, 1877, at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Australia with the creation of the famous "Ashes" trophy in 1882 after Australia easily beat the Marylebone Cricket Club team (which was not a Test match, interestingly enough). Except in times of war, regular series of test matches between these two countries have continued until this day.

On March 12, 1888, England played South Africa for the first time in a test match. The match occurred at St. George's Park, Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

The Twentieth Century: Pre WWI

In 1901, a "Triangular Tournament" was organized in England, involving South Africa, Australia, and the host nation. It was the first test series in which more than two countries took part. An utter disaster, the scheme has never been repeated until the recent Asia Test Championship between India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

The Twentieth Century: Between the Wars

Between the World Wars, three new teams acquired test status. On June 23, 1928, the West Indies played England at Lord's Cricket Ground in London. Then, England played against New Zealand in Lancaster Park, Christchurch, New Zealand on January 10, 1930. Finally, England matched up against one of its own colonies, India, on June 23, 1932, at Lord's, London.

The Twentieth Century: Post WWII

After India and Pakistan gained independence in 1947, the Pakistan cricket team played their first test against their Indian counterparts at Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi, India, on October 16, 1952. This was the first inaugural test in which England did not play. No new test teams were to be seen until the 1980s.

In the late 1970s and 1980s the West Indies were universally feared and respected thanks to a fine combination of terryfing fast bowlers (such as Michael Holding, Curtly Ambrose and Malcolm Marshall) and powerful batsmen (such as Viv Richards, Clive Lloyd and Gordon Greenidge).

On February 17, 1982, Sri Lanka played England in its first test at P. Saravanamuttu Stadium, Colombo, in Sri Lanka. Ten years later, on October 18, 1992, Zimbabwe played its first test match against India at the Harare Sports Club, Harare, Zimbabwe.

Bangladesh opposed India in its first test on November 10, 2000. The match, which brought the total number of test teams to ten, was played at Bangabhandhu National Stadium, which is situated in Bangladesh's capital, Dhaka. Bangladesh's admission to test status has been somewhat controversial, because of their extremely poor performances (losing virtually all their matches outright, a record unmatched by any team throughout Test history), and the widespread belief that Kenya is a far stronger side.

The Twenty-first Century

As of January 2002, the strongest team in the world according to the official rankings is South Africa, taking over from Australia who had held the ranking since its inception and would have held it for some time previously had the ranking system been in operation. However, most observers, including the captains of the England and Pakistan teams (who are presumably in an excellent position to judge) regard Australia as stronger team (in their most recent two series, Australia beat South Africa 3-0 in Australia and 2-1 in South Africa) and the changeover the result of the inadequacies of the ranking system. There is a substantial gap to the other teams. As with the other fine sports invented by the English, such as rugby union, these former colonies are currently much stronger than the progenitors of the game. However, teams from South Asia (India, Pakistan, and to a lesser extent Sri Lanka) exhibit a particularly schizophrenic win-loss record - nearly invincible at home, but easybeats away from home.

The newest record for the highest ever test cricket innings of 380 runs was set on October 10, 2003 by Matthew Hayden playing for Australia against Zimbabwe. The previous record was completed on April 18, 1994, when Brian Lara of the West Indies scored 375 against England, surpassing Sir Garfield Sobers previous record of 365 not out.

See Also: List of Test cricket grounds, List of cricketers, test cricket records