Test CricketTest cricket is the longest form of the sport of cricket. It has long been considered the ultimate test of playing ability between cricketing nations. It remains the highest-regarded form of the game, although the comparatively new One-day International cricket is now more popular amongst some audiences. The name "Test" is thought to arise from the idea that the matches are a "test of strength" between the sides involved. It seems to have been used first to describe an English team that toured Australia in 1861-62, although these matches are not considered Test matches today.
Test StatusTest matches are a subset of first-class cricket, although the step up in required skill between test and normal first-class cricket is considerable: many players who excelled in the first class game proved unable to handle test cricket when given the chance. They are played between national representative teams which have "Test status", as determined by the International Cricket Council (ICC). As of 2005, ten national teams have been given Test status, the most recent being Bangladesh in 2000.
- A list of matches defined as Tests was first drawn up by Australian Clarence Moody in the 1890s.
- Representative matches played by simultaneous England touring sides of 1891-92 (in Australia and South Africa) and 1929-30 (in the West Indies and New Zealand) are deemed to have Test status.
- In 1970, a series of five "Test matches" was played in England between England and a Rest of the World XI. Although initially given unofficial Test status (and included as Test matches in some record books, notably Wisden), this was later withdrawn and the principle that official Test matches can only be between national sides was established.
- The series of "Test matches" played in Australia between Australia and a World XI in 1971/72 do not have Test status.
- The commercial "Supertests" organised by Kerry Packer as part of his World Series Cricket enterprise and played between "WSC Australia", "WSC World XI" and "WSC West Indies" from 1977 to 1979 have never been regarded as having official Test match status.
- In 2005 the ICC ruled that the six-day Super Series match that took place in October 2005 between Australia and a World XI was an official Test match. This ICC decision was taken despite the fact that they had received advice from the Association of Cricket Statisticians and Historians that only matches between nations should be given Test match status. Some prominent cricket statisticians, such as Bill Frindall, have decided to ignore the ICC's ruling, leading to the possibility of two competing sets of cricket statistics appearing.
Test Cricket RulesTest cricket is played between two teams over five days, with three two-hour sessions per day. (Sessions are usually interspersed with a 40-minute break for lunch and 20-minute break for afternoon tea.) Each team has eleven players.
Before play starts on the first day, a coin is tossed. The team winning the toss chooses whether to bat first or to bowl first. In the following, the team batting first is termed "team A" and its opponents "team B".
- Team A bats until either ten batsmen are dismissed (team A is "all out"), or its captain chooses to stop batting (called a "declaration"). This batting period is called an "innings". There is no limit to the length of an innings provided there remain at least two batsmen who have not been dismissed (when ten are dismissed, the eleventh cannot continue by himself) and the five days have not elapsed.
- After team A's first innings the teams swap roles, with team B batting its first innings, and team A bowling and fielding.
- If team B is dismissed with a score 200 runs or more behind team A, team A chooses whether to "invite" team B to bat again for its second innings (called "forcing the follow-on"), or to bat itself to gain a bigger lead. (If the whole first day of play is abandoned without a single ball being bowled, whether because of rain or otherwise, the follow-on requirement is reduced to 150 runs.)
- Team B bats its second innings.
- If team B's total score from both innings is less than team A's first innings score, team A wins the match.
- If this is not the case, team A must bat its second innings to attempt to score more than team B's total. If it succeeds in the remaining time, team A wins. If it is dismissed before this occurs, team B wins (though this is very unusual - teams that enforce the follow-on very rarely lose. This has happened only three times in the entire history of Test cricket and each time the losing team has been Australia; the most recent one being the India-Australia series in India in 2001.).
- If time runs out before any of the above occurs, the match is called a draw.
- Team A bats its second innings. If time runs out before the innings is completed, the match is a draw.
- If team A's total score for its two innings is less than team B's score from its first innings, team B is the winner. Otherwise, team B must bat a second innings.
- If team B's total score over two innings is more than team A's, team B wins the match.
- If team B is dismissed before reaching team A's total, team A wins the match.
- If neither occurs before the scheduled end of the match, it is a draw.
The decision for the winner of the toss to bat or bowl first is based on an assessment of the relative strengths and weaknesses of each team and the conditions of the wicket. Most of the time pitches 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 team winning the toss may choose to bowl first (either to take advantage of their own attack or to disallow the opposition the use of a "green" wicket whose erratic bounce will help seam bowling).
The rationale for a team declaring their innings closed prior to being bowled out 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 the game ends in a draw, no matter how many runs they may be behind. Therefore, a team with a large lead will declare to give themselves time to bowl at the opposition and take all their wickets.
Test Cricket Playing NationsThere are currently ten Test-playing nations.
Test status is conferred upon a country by the International Cricket Council. Countries that do not have Test status can only officially play a shortened version of cricket. The nations are listed below with the date of each nation's Test debut shown in brackets:
- Australia (15 March, 1877)
- England (15 March, 1877)
- South Africa (12 March, 1889) (South Africa did not compete in international cricket from 1971 to 1991 due to their policy of apartheid)
- West Indies (23 June, 1928)
- New Zealand (10 January, 1930)
- India (25 June, 1932) (Pre-1947 India included those parts of the sub-continent that are now Pakistan and Bangladesh.)
- Pakistan (16 October, 1952) (Pre-1971 Pakistan included that part of the sub-continent that is now Bangladesh.)
- Sri Lanka (17 February, 1982)
- Zimbabwe (18 October, 1992) (participation in Test matches has been suspended until 2007)
- Bangladesh (10 November, 2000)
Zimbabwe's Test matches were temporarily suspended from 10 June, 2004, to 6 January, 2005, and from 18 January, 2006 to 2007. In 2003, the ICC announced its intention to confer Test status upon Kenya in the near future.