Test cricket is a form of first-class cricket played at international level between teams representing full member countries of the International Cricket Council (ICC). A match consists of four innings (two per team) and is scheduled to last for up to five days. In the past, some Test matches had no time limit and were called . The term "test match" was originally coined in 1861–62 but in a different context.
Test cricket did not become an officially recognised format until the 1890s, but many international matches since 1877 have been retrospectively awarded Test status. The first such match took place at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) in March 1877 between teams which were then known as a Combined Australian XI and James Lillywhite's XI, the latter a team of visiting English professionals. Matches between Australia and England were first called "test matches" in 1892. The first definitive list of retrospective Tests was written by South Australian journalist Clarence P. Moody two years later and, by the end of the century, had gained acceptance.
There are now twelve full ICC member countries playing Test cricket. Day/night Tests were permitted by the ICC in 2012 and the first day/night match was between Australia and New Zealand at the Adelaide Oval in November 2015.
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. A surprise victory for Australia inspired a mock obituary of English cricket to be published in the Sporting Times the following day: the phrase "The body shall be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia" prompted the subsequent creation of the Ashes urn.
The series of 1884–85 was the first to be held over five matches: England player Alfred Shaw, writing in 1901, considered the side to be "the best ever to have left England". South Africa became the third team to play Test cricket in 1888–89, when they hosted a tour by an under-strength England side. Australia, England and South Africa were the only countries playing Test cricket before World War I.
The teams with Test status (with the date of each team's Test debut) are:
Nine of these teams represent independent sovereign nations: the England cricket team represents the constituent countries of England and Wales, the West Indies is a combined team from fifteen Caribbean nations and territories, and Ireland represents both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Following the D'Oliveira affair in 1969, South Africa was suspended from all forms of cricket from 1970 until the end of the Apartheid in 1991.
Zimbabwe's Test status was voluntarily suspended in 2006 because of very poor performances, but its Test status was reinstated in August 2011. Zimbabwe Cricket Side Resume International Test Play After Six-Year Break – Voice of America.
The ICC has made several proposals to reform the system of granting Test status, including having two tiers with promotion and relegation, and/or a playoffs between the winners of the ICC Intercontinental Cup and the team with the lowest Test ranking. These proposals have not been successful as of 2021.
Statisticians have developed criteria to determine which matches count as Tests if they were played before the formal definition of Test status. There have been exceptional circumstances including the simultaneous England touring sides of 1891–92 (in Australia and South Africa) and 1929–30 (in the West Indies and New Zealand), all of whose international matches 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: these matches, originally scheduled between England and South Africa, were amended after South Africa was suspended from international cricket due to their government's apartheid policies. Although initially given Test status and included as Test matches in some record books, including Wisden Cricketers' Almanack, this was later withdrawn, and a principle was established that official Test matches can only be between nations (note that the geographically and demographically small countries of the West Indies have, since 1928, fielded a coalition side).
Despite this principle, in 2005, the ICC ruled that the six-day Super Series match that took place that October between Australia and a World XI was an official Test match: some cricket writers and statisticians, including Bill Frindall, have ignored the ICC's ruling and exclude this match from their records.
The series of "Test matches" played in Australia between Australia and a World XI in 1971–72, and the commercial "Supertests" organised by Kerry Packer as part of his World Series Cricket enterprise played between "WSC Australia", "WSC World XI" and "WSC West Indies" from 1977 to 1979, have never been regarded as official Test matches as of 2021.
Today, 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 '', which have no predetermined maximum time. In 2005, Australia played a match scheduled for six days against a World XI, which the ICC sanctioned as an official Test match, though the match reached a conclusion on the fourth day. In October 2017, the ICC approved a request for a four-day Test match, between South Africa and Zimbabwe, which started on 26 December 2017 and ended on the second day, 27 December. The ICC trialed the four-day Test format until the 2019 Cricket World Cup. In December 2019, Cricket Australia were considering playing four-day Tests, subject to consensus with other Test nations. Later the same month, the ICC considered the possibility of making four-day Test matches mandatory for the ICC World Test Championship from 2023.
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.
In the following scenarios, the team that bats first is referred to as Team A and their opponents as Team B.
Usually the teams will alternate at the completion of each innings. Thus, Team A will bat (and Team B will bowl) until its innings ends, and then Team B will bat and Team A will bowl. When Team B's innings ends, Team A begin their second innings, and this is followed by Team B's second innings. The winning team is the one that scores more runs in their two innings.
If, at the completion of Team B's first innings, Team A leads by at least 200 runs, the captain of Team A may (but is not required to) order Team B to have their second innings next. This is called enforcing the follow-on. In this case, the usual order of the third and fourth innings is reversed: Team A will bat in the fourth innings. It is rare for a team forced to follow-on to win the match. In Test cricket it has only happened three times, although over 285 follow-ons have been enforced: Australia was the losing team on each occasion, twice to England, in 1894 and in 1981, and once to India in 2001.
If the whole of the first day's play of a Test match has been lost because of bad weather or other reasons like bad light, then Team A may enforce the follow-on if Team B's first innings total is 150 or more fewer than Team A's. During the 2nd Test between England and New Zealand at Headingley in 2013, England batted first after the first day was lost because of rain. New Zealand, batting second, scored 180 runs fewer than England, meaning England could have enforced the follow-on, though chose not to. This is similar to four-day first-class cricket, where the follow-on can be enforced if the difference is 150 runs or more. If the Test is 2 days or fewer then the "follow-on" value is 100 runs.
After 80 overs, the captain of the bowling side may take a Cricket ball, although this is not required. The captain will usually take the new ball: being harder and smoother than an old ball, a new ball generally favours faster bowlers who can make it bounce more variably. The roughened, softer surface of an old ball can be more conducive to spin bowlers, or those using reverse swing. The captain may delay the decision to take the new ball if he wishes to continue with his spinners (because the pitch favours spin). After a new ball has been taken, should an innings last a further 80 overs, then the captain will have the option to take another new ball.
A Test match will produce a result by means of one of six scenarios:
The number of matches in Test series has varied from one to seven. Up until the early 1990s, Test series between international teams were organised between the two national cricket organisations 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 International 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.
|The Anthony De Mello Trophy is awarded for India–England test series played in India, whilst the Pataudi Trophy is for series played in England.|
|The Wisden Trophy was retired in 2020 and replaced by the Richards-Botham Trophy in 2021-22.|
|2021||Rose Bowl, Southampton||New Zealand won by 8 wickets||Kyle Jamieson||Marnus Labuschagne, 1675||David Warner, 335*||Marnus Labuschagne, 5||Ravichandran Ashwin, 71||Kyle Jamieson, 5|