How Test Cricket Is Played – The Major Rules to Follow

This post covered the full details of how test cricket is played and its following rules that need to be known.

A test match is the purest form of cricket and maintains the essence of the game. The test cricket rules are fascinating and as a cricketer, it will be a real test for you to check your ability and temperament in a traditional format.

It is typically the longest and highest form of first-class cricket contested between 2 international teams that have been granted test status by the ICC ( International Cricket Council).

Unlike the limited overs cricket, a test match does not have any specified powerplay overs.

According to the basic test cricket rules, a batting side achieves victory by posting a higher total and dismissing their opponents with a lesser total.

Mainly, a batting side needs to surpass the opposition team’s total in the fourth innings without losing all 10 wickets to win the match. Similarly, the bowling side needs to grab all 10 wickets in the 4th innings to attain triumph.

Many queries about the test match rules arise like batting criteria, limitations in overs, fielding restrictions, and follow-on rules. Most often, you might confuse yourself with the terms draw and tie match.

Also, most of the cricket fans have come across the terms breaks and sessions period in test cricket. Especially, you need to know about the transition in test cricket innings.

Before knowing the test cricket rules, it would be interesting to explore what is test cricket and its history.

What is Test cricket and its history?

In test cricket, both teams bat twice in the specified duration of 5 days. Played for many years, this traditional form of cricket and has transformed into a 5-day game with two innings per side.

Notably, Australia and England played the official first international test cricket match in Melbourne in 1877.

Currently, 12 full member nations play the test cricket organized by ICC. In the early days, a test match would continue up to 6 or 7 days. Later, ICC standardized the test cricket rules up to 5 days with 2 innings per side.

Previously, a rest day was provided between the 3rd and 4th day of a test match. However, the ICC abandoned the rule after the test match between India and West Indies in 1997 at Bridgetown.

Most Important Test Cricket Rules: Basic and Advanced

The basic and advanced levels of  test cricket rules have been filtered out and listed below:

1. Batting Criteria:

Each batting side can play innings by losing up to 10 wickets. It doesn’t mean that a batting team should mandatorily lose all its wickets to continue with the next innings.

If a team bats first and scores maximum runs, the skipper of the batting side can declare the innings. In test cricket rules, teams batting have the benefit of transitioning the innings if a skipper feels that they have batted sufficiently to control the match and the opponent bowler is unable to grab wickets. The batting team declares the innings, thereby inviting the opponent team to bat the subsequent ones.

For instance, if Team A bats first and Team B bats second, the same order needs to be followed in the next innings, except for a follow-on.

2. Bowling Conditions and Overs Limitations:

The ICC’s test cricket rules do not specifically mention the limitations of overs. However, a minimum of 90 overs has to be bowled by a team per day.

In simpler terms, the bowling side should manage to bowl an average of 15 overs per hour except for the final day of a test match.

Also, 2 overs will be deducted from the minimum number of overs bowled per day, if there is a shift in innings based on the following scenarios:

  • A batting team bowled out
  • If the batting side declared the innings

Moreover, there isn’t any restriction for bowlers to bowl a specific number of overs.

Furthermore, the match officials can increase or decrease the scheduled overs for an overall day if rain or other severe factors interrupt the game.

3. Fielding Restrictions:

Test cricket has minimal fielding restrictions, unlike limited-overs cricket. Particularly, the test cricket rules for fielding provide flexibility and freedom to the bowling side captain to set the fielders.

After the 80th over, a fielding side can have a maximum of 5 fielders on the leg side of the stumps.

4. Follow-on Rule:

A batting side can bat the 2nd innings immediately after their first innings with the follow-on rule. These types of test cricket rules come into play for 2-innings of a test match for teams batting first under specific circumstances:

  • 5-day test matches: Teams batting first should lead by 200 runs
  • 3-or 4 days test matches: Starting with a minimum lead of 150 runs
  • 2 days test matches: A minimum lead of 100 runs
  • 1-day test match: Lead by 75 runs

5. Draw vs Tie Match:

Most commonly, you might have observed a draw match in a test cricket rather than a tie result.

Based on the ICC’s test cricket rules, a draw match concludes without a definite winner in several cases:

  • Time out: If neither team gets bowled out at the end of Day 5 without accomplishing the target, a draw match is declared.

  • Mutual agreement: Both teams agree to abandon the match due to unfavorable playing conditions like low light or fatigue.

  • Bad weather conditions: The matchofficials reduce the available time due to poor weather conditions like rain, fog, winds, and many more…

A tie match is witnessed in test cricket under the following conditions:

  • Equal scores by both teams under the allotted time.
  • If the batting side loses its 10th wicket during the 4th innings at the leveled score. 

6. Breaks and Session Period:

The breaks and sessions are specifically categorized into 3 different periods each. These periods interlink with each other and form a vital part of the test cricket rules.

Test matches are divided into 3 session periods namely:

  • Morning (1st session): The session begins after the toss and continues up to lunch break.
  • Afternoon (2nd session): Commenced after the lunch break and continues for 2 to 3 hours till the tea break.
  • Evening (3rd  session): The final session of the day starting from a  tea break till the end of the play known as “stumps” in test cricket.

Similarly, a particular day of a test match is provided with 3 different break periods:

  • Lunch Break: The break time offered between the morning and afternoon sessions
  • Tea Break: Players and the match umpires are granted a short break for 20 to 30 minutes between the 2nd and 3rd sessions of a test match.
  • Drinks Break: It is an optional break of 2 to 3 minutes for players to consume drinks, adjust their playing equipment, and have a brief discussion with their teammates.

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