Test matches and first class cricket are the only forms of the game where a draw is possible but what constitutes a draw and why do we have them?
How can Test Cricket be a Draw?
Test cricket is a timed format and there is no restriction on the amount of overs that can be bowled. Usually, games will be scheduled to last for a total of five days.
If a result is not possible by the end of the final day’s play, it’s declared that the game is drawn.
Cricket Test Match Draw Rules
In test matches, both sides will play a maximum of two innings each. The objective is to score more runs than the opposition and win the game.
If the side batting last is set a target, they will win the match if they overtake that target and they still have wickets in hand. Similarly, if that team loses all ten wickets before they reach the target, the bowling team is declared the winner.
If, however, the team batting last doesn’t overtake the opposition total before time runs out on the game, the match will be declared a draw if they have wickets in hand.
This is the most common scenario of a draw in test cricket but it’s not essential that all four innings are played. On occasions, the rain will intervene to the extent that very little cricket is possible.
As long as wickets are in hand and the final target has yet to be reached, the game is a draw.
How Often do Test Matches Draw?
The pace of test cricket has picked up in the last twenty years so there will be fewer draws in the modern era than there may have been in the past. If we take the 1997 season as an example, around half of the tests played in that year ended in draws.
In the 15 years from 2002 to 2017, around one in four test matches ended in a draw. The game is even faster in the modern era, and we should see that figure drop even further in the years that lie ahead.
Examples of Draws in Cricket
South Africa v England – 1929/30
Perhaps the most famous instance of a draw in test cricket is also the longest match in the history of the game. We’ve mentioned that test matches usually last for five days, but this wasn’t always the case.
Between 1877 and 1939, there were 77 timeless tests where there was no limit on the number of days of competition. One of those tests took place in March 1939 in Durban. Chasing 696 to win the game, England had reached 654/5 on the tenth day when the match was finally called off.
How can a timeless test end in a draw? The game had been going on for so long that the tourists had to catch the boat that was scheduled to return to England.
India v West Indies – 2011
There have been two games in the history of test cricket where the match has been drawn with the scores level. The second of these took place at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on West Indies’ tour of India in 2011/12.
Chasing 243 on the fourth innings to win the game, India finished on 242/9. As the ninth wicket pair went for the winning runs on the final ball of the game, India’s R Ashwin was run out to ensure that the match finished in a draw by the tightest of margins.
2005 Ashes – England v Australia
There were two draws in the five-match Ashes series between England and Australia in 2005. Both were dramatic games and would have a huge bearing on the final outcome.
In the third test at Old Trafford, the last wicket pair of Brett Lee and Glenn McGrath held on for a few overs so that Australia remained in the series.
The second draw came at the Oval and it confirmed that England had won back the Ashes. Rain had played a part but some brilliant batting by Kevin Pietersen in particular had its say.
Some will say that a draw is a boring aspect of the game and should be done away with. As we’ve seen with our examples, that doesn’t have to be the case and I think they are important.
Draws can be exciting, but they should also be looked at as a legitimate result. In the context of a series, it’s important for a team not to lose so that they can regroup and try to win the next match.
They may be frustrating, but a draw really is a necessary part of the game.