Test cricket


Test cricket is the form of the sport of cricket with the longest match duration and is considered the game’s highest standard. Rotary Test matches are played between national representative teams that have been granted Test status, as determined and conferred by the International Cricket Council (ICC). It is called Test because the long, grueling matches are mentally and physically testing. Two teams of 11 players each play a four-innings match, which may last up to five days (or more in the past). It is generally considered the most complete examination of a team’s endurance and ability.

The first officially recognized Test match took place between 15 and 19 March 1877 and was played between England and Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). In October 2012, the ICC recast the playing conditions for Test matches, permitting day/night Test matches. The first day/night game took place between Australia and New Zealand at the Adelaide Oval, Adelaide, on 27 November – 1 December 2015.

Early history

Sides designated as “England” began to play in the late 18th century, but these teams were not truly representative. Early international cricket was disrupted by the French Revolution and the American Civil War.

The earliest international cricket match was between the United States and Canada, on 24 and 25 September 1844. This has never been officially considered a “Test match”. Tours of national English sides abroad took place, particularly to the US, Australia and New Zealand. The Australian Aboriginal team became the first organized overseas cricketers to tour England in 1868.

Two rival English tours of Australia were proposed in the early months of 1877, with James Lillywhite campaigning for a professional tour and Fred Grace for an amateur one. Grace’s tour fell through and it was Lillywhite’s team that toured New Zealand and Australia in 1876–77. Two matches against a combined Australian XI were later classified as the first official Test matches. The first match was won by Australia, by 45 runs and the second by England. After reciprocal tours established a pattern of international cricket, 

The Ashes was established as a competition during the Australian tour of England in 1882.

Test status

Test matches are the highest level of cricket, played between national representative teams with “Test status”, as determined by the International Cricket Council. 

The teams with Test status (with the date of each team’s Test debut) are:

  1. Australia (15 March 1877)
  2. England (15 March 1877)
  3. South Africa (12 March 1889)
  4. West Indies (23 June 1928)
  5. New Zealand (10 January 1930)
  6. India (25 June 1932)
  7. Pakistan (16 October 1952)
  8. Sri Lanka (17 February 1982)
  9. Zimbabwe (18 October 1992)
  10. Bangladesh (10 November 2000)
  11. Ireland (11 May 2018)
  12. Afghanistan (14 June 2018)

Conduct of the game

  • Playing time

Test matches are scheduled to be played across five consecutive days. However, in the early days of Test cricket, matches were played for three or four days. Four-day Test matches were last played in 1973, between New Zealand and Pakistan. Until the 1980s, it was usual to include a ‘rest day,’ often a Sunday. There have also been ‘Timeless Tests’, which have no predetermined maximum time.

There have been attempts by the ICC, the sport’s governing body, to introduce day-night Test matches. In 2012, the International Cricket Council passed playing conditions that allowed for the staging of day-night Test matches. The first day-night Test took place during New Zealand’s tour to Australia in November 2015.

  • Play

Test cricket is played in innings (the word denotes both the singular and the plural). In each innings, one team bats and the other bowls (or fields). Ordinarily four innings are played in a Test match, and each team bats twice and bowls twice. Before the start of play on the first day, the two team captains and the match referee toss a coin; the captain who wins the toss decides whether his team will bat or bowl first.

A team’s innings ends in one of the following ways:

  • The team is “all out”. This typically occurs when a team has lost ten wickets (ten of the eleven batsmen having been dismissed) and are “bowled out”. It may occasionally occur with the loss of fewer wickets if one or more batsmen are unavailable to bat (through injury, for example).
  • The team’s captain declares the innings closed, usually because they believe they have enough runs. A declaration before the innings starts is called an innings forfeiture.
  • The team batting fourth score the required number of runs to win.
  • The prescribed time for the match expires.

A Test match will produce a result by means of one of six scenarios:

  • All four innings are complete. 
  • The team batting in the fourth innings overtakes the opposing team’s run total. 
  • The third innings concludes with the team that batted twice still trailing the team that batted once. 
  • Time for the match expires without a result being reached
  • The match is abandoned because the ground is declared unfit for play. 
  • The match is awarded through forfeiture. 


  • Tours

Test cricket is almost always played as a series of matches between two countries, with all matches in the series taking place in the same country (the host). Often there is a perpetual trophy that is awarded to the winner.

The number of matches in Test series has varied from one to seven. Up until the early 1990s, Test series between international teams were organized between the two national cricket organizations with umpires provided by the home team. With the entry of more countries into Test cricket, and a wish by the ICC to maintain public interest in Tests in the face of the popularity of one-day cricket, a rotation system was introduced that sees all ten Test teams playing each other over a six-year cycle, and an official ranking system (with a trophy held by the highest-ranked team). In this system, umpires are provided by the ICC.

An elite panel of eleven umpires was maintained since 2002, and the panel is supplemented by an additional International Panel that includes three umpires named by each Test-playing country. The elite umpires officiate almost all Test matches, though usually not Tests involving their home country.

Name of Trophy Team 1 Team 2
The Ashes England Australia
Anthony De Mello Trophy India England
Frank Worrell Trophy West Indies Australia
Richards – Botham Trophy West Indies England
Trans-Tasman Trophy New Zealand Australia
Border – Gavaskar Trophy Australia India
Southern Cross Trophy Australia Zimbabwe
Sir Vivian Richards Trophy West Indies South Africa
Clive Lloyd Trophy West Indies Zimbabwe
Basil D’Oliveira Trophy South Africa England
Pataudi Trophy India England
Warne – Muralidaran Trophy Sri Lanka Australia
The Freedom Trophy India South Africa
Sobers – Tissera Trophy West Indies Sri Lanka
Ganguly – Durjoy Trophy India Bangladesh

World Test Championship

A league competition for Test cricket began in 2019–21. Arranged as a bilateral series in various countries with one team as host and another team as visitor. The length of each series varies between 2 and 5 matches. Ireland, Zimbabwe and Afghanistan are not taking part in this competition, but instead play a program of Test matches with each other and other teams during the same period.


It has been suggested that Test cricket may be losing popularity, particularly in the face of the advent of short form cricket. Day/night Test matches have been suggested as one way to address this problem. However, the lack of popularity has been disputed, with a Marylebone Cricket Club poll showing that 86% of all cricket fans support Test cricket, more than any other format.

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