What is T20 Cricket? – Rules of the Most Popular Format

T20 cricket has revolutionised the game since it first came onto the scene and has achieved its aim of bringing more fans into the sport so let’s take a closer look at the phenomenon.

What is T20 Cricket?

T20 cricket is the shortest form of the game currently played by all ICC affiliated countries. Each side has twenty overs in which to score more runs than their opponents, so the action is fast paced and more likely to attract a bigger audience.

T20 matches generally follow the established laws of cricket but there are some twists on some of those rules.

Twenty20 Cricket Rules

How Long Does a T20 Match Last?

Each side in a T20 match will receive a maximum of 20 overs. The team batting first will set the highest possible total while the side taking the second innings will need to overtake that target.

If a team loses all ten wickets inside their 20 allocated overs, the innings will come to an end at that point.

Time Limit

The onus is on the bowling team to complete their 20 overs inside the 75-minute time limit. One hour and 15 minutes means that the sides have an average of three minutes and 45 seconds with which to complete each over.

The limit is in place to help the game run smoothly and swiftly. If the bowling side is not in position to deliver their final over within the allotted time, a six-run penalty will be awarded to the batting team.

Free Hit Rule in T20

The free hit rule applies following an illegal no ball delivery from the bowling side. The law mirrors that of other limited overs formats in the sense that a free hit will follow the no ball.

With the exception of run out and obstructing the field, all forms of dismissal are taken out of the equation when the free hit is delivered. The batsman, therefore, essentially has a free swing at the ball.


Five Run Penalty

Penalty runs is a general law in cricket but we tend to see it in T20 more than in other forms of the game. Fake fielding and deliberately fielding the ball with a cap or item of clothing can also result in penalty runs being awarded.

In T20 cricket, either umpire can also award five penalty runs to the batting team if they feel that the fielding side is deliberately wasting time.

Bowling Restrictions in T20

A team must use a minimum of five bowlers in each innings. Every one of the bowlers used has a maximum allocation of four overs. It is possible for the fielding captain to use as many bowlers as they wish but that four-over limit will apply in each case.

Powerplay in T20

Rules regarding the powerplay may vary depending on which tournament is involved. In most cases, there is a six-over powerplay at the start of the innings where fielding restrictions are in place.

In certain competitions, most notably Australia’s Big Bash, there is a four-over powerplay at the start, followed by a two-over ‘surge’ at a later point in the innings.


90-second Rule

Once a wicket has fallen, the new batsman must be ready to face their next delivery within the next 90 seconds. If they are not, the fielding side has the right to appeal and the new batter can be dismissed under the ‘Timed Out’ law.


A bowl out has long been used as way of deciding a result in a match which has been ruined by the weather. If no result is possible, each team may line up five bowlers and their task is to bowl at a single stump.

No batsmen will stand in their way and the team who hits the stumps on most occasions will win the match.

Super Over

A Super Over is used in the event of the scores being tied at the end of a T20 match. Both teams now get one over to score more runs than the opposition. Only one bowler can be used and each batting side can use up a maximum of two wickets.

Twenty20 Leagues

England were the first country to officially adopt a T20 tournament back in 2003. The current competition, known as the T20 Blast, is still run every year.

In the present day, all major nations have their own domestic T20 competitions but the biggest of them all is the Indian Premier League (IPL). First held in 2008, the big money behind the IPL attracts the best limited overs cricketers from around the world.

Other notable competitions to look out for include the Big Bash in Australia, the Pakistan Super League, the Lanka Premier League and the Caribbean Premier League.

Twenty20 World Cup

Twenty20 Cricket has a World Cup and the tournament was first run in 2007. In total, there have been seven editions of the competition, up to and including the 2021 World Cup which was hosted by the UAE and Oman.

The scheduling has been quite erratic in the first few years of the tournament. In theory, we should expect to see a global tournament every four years but the organisers have rarely kept to this timeframe. This means that the next T20 World Cup will take place in Australia in 2022.

16 teams are set to progress to the main tournament after a series of qualifiers. In the first seven editions of the T20 World Cup, the West Indies have been the most successful side with two victories. Meanwhile, England, India, Pa