Test cricket is the oldest and most venerated variation of the game. The first official test match was played way back in 1877, between England and Australia at the MCG. It is cricket in its purest and most ‘testing’ form.
Playing test cricket is perhaps one of the most challenging tasks players have to accomplish. Whether it’s batting, bowling or fielding, staying out in that field for 90 overs a day for 5 days is no easy task. It demands every bit of endurance a player has got. Nonetheless, being able to play international test cricket for your nation is one of the highest honours a player can receive. Getting a test cap is a rite of passage to the next level of cricket. It is a symbol of the “ascent to manhood” in cricketing terms.
As mentioned before, test cricket is played across a stretch of 5 days, each day consisting of 90 overs. The sequence is as follows:
- A team bats, and scores runs until they are bowled out.
- The other team bats, and attempts not only to overtake the first team’s score, but gain a lead on it (they too bat until bowled out).
- The first team then comes out to chase that score, and they too attempt to gain a lead on that it (again, they bat until bowled out; if they are bowled out before they reach that score they lose).
- Finally, the second team comes out again and attempts to chase that final score set by the first team.
- If they chase it down successfully, they win.
- If they are bowled out before they chase it, they lose.
- If they do not chase the score by the end of the match, but are not bowled out, the match is drawn.
At any given time, the batting captain may chose to declare their innings before their team is bowled out. This is usually done when the team feels they have enough runs, and wants to have extra time to bowl out the opposition.
Due to its sheer magnitude, test cricket is played slower than most other formats. Batsmen take their time, and play for their average rather than their strike rate. This is why batsmen accustomed to test cricket often struggle in T20 cricket, where strike rate is everything. As a bowler, particularly a fast bowler, test cricket sucks the juice out of you. You need to be able to bowl 20-30 overs on average per innings, and be able to threaten the batsman all the time. Test cricket is always played in whites, maintaining the traditional way it was played back in its early days.