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Test Cricket Rules

A Test match is the longest form of cricket and the format in which the real essence of the game lies. It is a true test of the ability and temperament of a cricketer and the most intriguing of all formats.

Cricket has a rich history associated with it and thus the rules of the game have also gone through significant changes all through the years since their inception.

England v Australia: 3rd Investec Ashes Test - Day One

What is Test cricket?

In the past, a Test match would go on for six or even seven days in search of a result of the game in the early days of the game. However, it was later decided that a test match will be scheduled for a duration of five days with two innings per side.

A rest day was normally provided between the third and fourth day of a test match but it was abandoned in 1997 after the India-West Indies test match in Bridgetown.

A standard day in test cricket consists of three sessions with 30 overs in each session. The breaks between sessions are 40 minutes for lunch and 20 minutes for tea.

In test cricket, each team bats twice. If team X bats first and team Y bats second, the same order will be followed in the next innings also, except in case of a follow-on. If team Y scores more than team X in first innings, Y is said to be in lead with the excess else they are said to be trailing by a deficit.

If team X puts up a score and team Y is all out with still a deficit of more than 200 runs remaining to chase then the captain of team X may enforce a follow-on in which team Y bats again with the aim to reduce the deficit and gain a lead over X. The decision to enforce a follow-on is of team X's captain.

If a team feels they have batted enough to be in control of the match and the opponent will be unable to bowl them out, they may choose to declare the innings and ask the other team to bat.

If team X has batted twice and still did not cross the first innings total of team Y, they lose the match by an innings and if all the four innings of the match are not completed in the five days, the match ends in a draw.

Over Limit

In Test matches, a minimum of 90 overs have to be bowled in a day or a minimum of 15 overs per hour except on the last day. A minimum of 75 overs on the last day for the playing time have to be bowled. The scheduled overs may be reduced or increased in case the match is affected by rain or any other disturbances.

If there is a change of innings in case a team is bowled out or a team declares their innings in the day's play, 2 overs will be deducted from the minimum overs to be bowled in the day.

New Balls

The new ball is available after every 80 overs have been bowled in the match. The ball can be replaced by a ball of similar usage condition if it changes shape and fails the loop test.

Decision Review System

The aim of the DRS was to review the decision by on-field umpires. DRS was officially launched by the ICC in a match between New Zealand and Pakistan at Dunedin in November 2009.

Initially, teams were provided with a maximum of two reviews in an innings and later a top up of reviews after 80 overs was proposed. Now, there is no top-up of reviews and teams have 2 reviews per inning with no review lost in case of umpire's call in an LBW decision.


Test cricket had always been played under natural light conditions and the lights are only used to enable a full day's play to be completed.

In a bid to improve the popularity of the test cricket, ICC allowed the staging of day-night test matches to be played with a pink ball. In November 2015, the first day-night test was played between Australia and New Zealand which Australia won by 3 wickets.

Now, the rules for day-night test matches differ slightly from conventional test matches. Home board with the agreement of visiting board has to seek approval from the ICC to play a day-night test match.

The playing hours have to be determined by agreement between the boards subject to six hours scheduled play per day. Other rules also have to be decided by agreement between two boards in case of day-night test matches.

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