From 20 Overs to 5 Days: The Many Formats of Cricket

Looking at an Innings

Cricket matches are divided into innings. Each of the two sides has at least one innings, no matter what the format. Here’s how an innings works.

  1. The batting side sends in its first two batsmen. They beat until the fielding team dismisses one of them. Being dismissed may sound like something from your schooldays but it actually refers to the batsman being got out by the bowling side, through being caught, run-out, or bowled, for example.
  2. The dismissed player’s place is taken by another player. This player is said to be batting at number three in the batting order.
  3. When one of the two players – the player who went out to bat at the start of the innings or the number three player – is dismissed then his place is taken by another player. This player is batting at number four in the batting order.
  4. This process goes on and on until the 11th batsman comes in to bat. When the number eleven batsman is dismissed – or his or her batting partner – then the batting side is all out. The batting team’s innings is over.
  5. Once the batting side is all out, they swap places with the bowling side. The side that has been fielding and bowling becomes the batting side.

Throwing the second innings into the mix

Some cricket matches – such as test and first-class – involve teams having not one but two innings. This means that after the two sides have batted once they have to come out and bat again. Therefore, Team A bats, team B bats, team A bats again, and finally team B bats for the final time in the match.

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The idea of having two innings, rather than just one, is that it provides a truer test of the abilities of the two teams. Sometimes, in a single-innings match, an inferior team can get lucky and score more runs than a better side, yet this is less likely to happen if teams have to bat twice! The total runs scored in both innings are added together to decide which team wins.

Taking extra time to complete two innings

The fact that some matches involve teams having two innings means that more time is needed to establish a winner. Finishing a two-innings match in a single day is nigh on impossible: The batsmen are too skilled to be dismissed by the bowlers in such a short time frame. As a result, two-innings matches are usually spread over four or five days.

Bad weather can take time out of the match, the players on both sides may bat particularly well, and the time allotted to reach a result may be used up before both sides’ innings are complete, in which case the match is a draw. The rules of some club cricket leagues also allow for single innings matches to end in a draw. What usually happens is that the team batting second in the match fails to reach the total of the team batting first, yet has still not been bowled out when the end of the day play has been reached

Taking a Closer Look at Test Cricket

As far as keen cricket buffs are concerned test matches are ‘where it’s all at’. Test matches see two national teams slug it out over five days. The results of these test matches are flashed around the world and great individual performances are recorded and pored over by cricket fans and historians alike. Test matches started way, way back in the 1870s and since then nearly 2,000 tests have been played. See Chapter 11 for more on the history of test cricket.

Test matches are great set-piece occasions. Great care is taken over the condition of the wicket used in a test match; see Chapter 2 for more. Ideally, a test match should last into its fifth day

Ensuring a result: One-day cricket

About 40 years ago cricket’s bigwigs woke up to the fact that many people like to see one team win the match and carry away the spoils. One-day cricket was born to try and quench this thirst for a winner. In one-day cricket teams get just one inning. But even in a single-innings match, no guarantee exists that the game will be over in a day. Therefore, in single-innings matches the number of overs is limited.

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This belt and braces approach ensures that a result is reached within a day, hence these matches are referred to as either one-day matches or limited-overs innings.

Last word

Some matches are complete wash-outs and no amount of Duckworth/Lewis mathematics can produce a result in a game where a ball hasn’t been bowled. But in knock-out cup competitions a result still has to be achieved, so something called a bowl out takes place. Put simply, bowlers from the two sides bowl at a set of stumps and the team that hits the stumps most often wins the tie. The bowl-out is a little like a penalty shoot-out in soccer.

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