How Do You Win A Cricket Match? (Tests, ODI’s, T20’s)

When you first get interested in cricket, it can be hard to get your head around the rules regarding how games are won and lost. Trust me, I’ve been there! Back in the 2005 Ashes series, I had no idea why England didn’t win the 3rd test match at Old Trafford against Australia seeing as they had scored more runs over two innings! After 5 days of play…the game ended as a draw, and I was incredibly confused. For those of you that are as confused now as I was back then, let’s try to clear things up a little:

Test Matches

(These rules also apply to other 3-5 day first class matches) – The winner of a test match will be the team that scores the most runs over the course of two batting innings, whilst also managing to bowl the other team out twice*. Test matches last for a maximum of 5 days with 90 overs being bowled per day, whereas some other first-class matches will last a maximum of 3 or 4 days. Teams will always have the opportunity to bat twice, however in some games that will not be required. It is possible that a team may score a vast amount of runs in one innings, then bowl the other team out twice for a combined total that is less than their original score, thus winning the game. For example, let’s say Team A bats first and is bowled out for 150. Team B then responds with a total of 500 all out. Team A bats for the second time, but this time they’re bowled out for 250. In this case, Team B would have won the test match while only batting once as they scored 500 runs to Team A’s 400!

All test and first class matches will end in a draw unless one team manages to get 20 wickets and bowl the other team out twice!* It is worth noting at this point that draws are extremely common in this type of cricket. However, there are some extremely rare instances when these matches can end in a tie! My first question when I first heard this was ‘what is the difference between a draw and a tie?’ Well…the answer is quite simple. Draws occur when a test/first class match ends with neither team having managed to bowl the other side out twice*. A tie occurs when one or both teams have been bowled out twice, but the combined scores from both innings of each team are level after the final wicket is taken. Again, this may be easier to understand with an example, so here goes: Imagine Team A bats first and is bowled out for 300 runs. Team B responds with a total of 340 all out. Team A bats again and posts 300 all out for a second time. Team B now begin their final innings chasing 260 runs to tie, or 261 runs to win. They lose their final wicket for a total of 260 runs, meaning that both teams have been bowled out fully with the scores across both innings level. This would be classed as a tie…and like I said, they’re extremely rare! There have only been two tied test matches in the history of cricket!

*Teams will need to take 20 wickets and bowl the other team out twice unless the losing team has either ‘declared’ during one of their innings, or a batsman from that team has retired hurt. A declaration occurs when the captain of one of the teams declares that they would like to end their innings voluntarily before 10 wickets have been taken. Whereas, a batsman who has retired hurt does not need to be dismissed as they are not fit to continue to bat. Taking both of these cases into account, it is feasible that a team could win a test match by taking less than 20 wickets.

One Day Internationals (ODI’s)

(These rules also apply to other limited overs matches such as 40 or 60 over games) – The winning team in a one day international is the one that has scored the most runs after 50 overs of batting. Due to there being a maximum of 300 deliveries in an innings, batsmen can play in a much more carefree manner, which leads to faster scoring rates and more boundaries. In this format of the game, it is not necessary to bowl the other team out to win, it can simply come down to the number of runs scored.

It is possible for limited overs matches to end in a tie, and this occurs when both teams score exactly the same amount of runs after both innings have concluded. It does not matter how the innings concluded – if the team batting last runs out of deliveries with the scores level, you have a tie. Also, if the team batting last loses their final wicket with the scores level, you have a tie.

If a tie occurs, this will often be recorded as the final result of the match. However, in a small number of cases where an outright winner must be determined such as the world cup final, another method is introduced as a means of deciding the game. The method currently used the most in cricket is called a ‘Super Over’ (Continue reading this post if you want to find out all about those!). Finally, it should be noted that it is impossible for one day international games to end in a draw, however a ‘no result’ is possible. The meaning of ‘no result’ will also be explained later in this post! 

Twenty20’s (T20’s)

The winning team in a T20 game is the team that has scored the most runs after 20 overs of batting per team. The criteria for securing a win in a T20 game is exactly the same as the criteria i just mentioned for ODI’s, but I thought I would add a specific section for this. The only significant difference between the two formats of the game is the length of the innings. Again, it is possible for T20 matches to end in a tie! This can be recorded as the final result if the rules of the tournament or series permit that, but super overs are much more widely used in T20 cricket. Finally, 20 over matches cannot end in a draw, but ‘no result’ is possible.

Other Ways Games of Cricket Can Be Won & Lost

Super Over

A super over is a small mini game that is used to determine a winning and a losing team of a limited overs match after they’ve ended their innings on the exact same number of runs – commonly known as a tie! Super overs are primarily used in T20 cricket, however certain 50 over tournaments have seen them included too. The general rules of a super over are as follows:

  • Each team has 1 over (6 balls) to bat
  • Each team must nominate 3 batsmen and 1 bowler to represent them in the super over.
  • Each team of 3 batsmen has a chance to face an over from the opposing bowler. The team that scores the highest number of runs after the conclusion of their over will win the match.
  • No balls, wides and other illegal deliveries carry the same penalties as usual and each one bowled will cause the super over to be extended by one delivery.
  • If the batting side loses two wickets, then the super over ends at that point.
  • If both teams score the same amount of runs off their super overs, the following rules are used to decide the outcome of the game. These rules are applied in rank order, so if teams are still tied after rule number 1 is considered, the game will be decided by rule 2, and so on and so forth!
    1. The team that scored the most boundaries during the main part of the match as well as the super over will win the game.
    2. The team that scored the most boundaries during the main part of the match will win the game. This ignores any boundaries scored during the super over.
    3. The umpires shall conduct a count-back from the final ball of the super over. The team with the higher scoring delivery is the winner. So for example, under this rule, if Team A hit a 6 off their last ball but Team B scored a single, Team A would be declared the winner of the game! It should be noted that runs scored from illegal deliveries count towards the total for the following legal delivery.

The historical record of matches that are settled by a super over will not simply show a ‘win’ for the winning team, and a ‘loss’ for the losers. You will usually see ‘Tie+W’ for the team that wins and ‘Tie+L’ for the losing team.

Duckworth-Lewis-Stern (DLS) Method

Some cricket matches are only settled after the use of something called the Duckworth Lewis Stern (DLS) method. The DLS method is a complicated mathematical formulation which is used when limited overs matches are disrupted and time is lost due to bad weather. It allows the winning score for the team batting last to be adjusted to make it fair and achievable even when time has been lost in the game. If you’ve watched cricket for a while then you’ll know how many games are affected by bad weather and other environmental factors! The DLS method is a way of taking cricket matches through to their conclusion and allowing us to declare winners and losers regardless of the environment the game is being played in.

In order for the DLS method to come into effect, each team must have the opportunity to bat for a minimum number of overs during the game. In 50 over cricket, each side must bat a minimum of 20 overs in order for DLS to be applied, whereas in T20 games, the minimum number of overs batting sides need to face is 5. 

The way that the DLS method is used to calculate target scores is pretty complex, and it is complex for good reason! Let me briefly attempt to explain why.

Imagine that Team A bat first and score a total of 250 runs in their 50 over innings. Now let’s say that Team B bat second, but they lose half of their overs due to rain! At this point some people may say that because Team B lost half of their overs in which they were allowed to bat, then their target score should also be reduced by half. This would leave Team B needing to score 125 runs in 25 overs. This may seem logical when you first think about it, because both scenarios require Team B to score 5 runs an over in order to win. However, this is where the number of wickets come into consideration. If Team B has to bat for 50 overs to score the original 250 runs with 10 wickets remaining, they cannot afford to be as aggressive as they would be if they only had 25 overs to score 125 with 10 wickets remaining. The security of having wickets in hand, alongside the reduction in the length of the game in this scenario allows batsmen to play much more freely, which would put Team B in an unfairly advantageous position. The DLS method tries to take away this unfair advantage by taking into account the number of wickets that teams have remaining, as well as the number of deliveries/overs remaining, and setting a fair target for both teams according to those factors.

Due to the high complexity of the DLS method, you won’t need to understand exactly how it works to continue watching the game of cricket! It’s just good to have some knowledge of what it is and how it works at the basic level. However, if you really do love the analytical side of cricket then you may be interested in checking out some of the theory behind the method, the majority of which can be found by clicking here!

Games that are decided by the DLS method will read something like the following – ‘Team A wins by 5 runs (D/L)’ or ‘Team B won by 6 wickets (D/L)’.

Forfeit

There have been several instances in cricket history where teams have refused to play a match. This has often resulted in the game being forfeited or ‘awarded’ to the other team by the umpires. In cricket history, this has happened primarily due to one team having security concerns about playing the match. This was the case in the 1996 World Cup where Australia refused to travel to and play Sri Lanka due to the civil war that was ongoing in that country. Australia forfeited the match and the points were awarded to Sri Lanka.

The 2003 World Cup also saw two instances of teams refusing to play. One of them was England, who refused to play Zimbabwe in Zimbabwe due to the controversy over the countries president Robert Mugabe. The other was New Zealand, who refused to play Kenya in Kenya due to the presence of terrorist organisation Boko Haram. Both matches were forfeited and the other team announced as winners.

One test match has been awarded to the other team by the umpires during the course of the game, and that was a match between England & Pakistan at the Oval in 2006. The Pakistan team refused to re-enter the field of play at the scheduled time after tea on the fourth day after they had been accused of ball tampering by umpire Darrell Hair. After Pakistan’s refusal to take the field, the test match was awarded to England.

Conceding

Although this rarely ever happens, it is possible for a team to concede the loss of a game by choice. One famous instance of this occurred in a game featuring Pakistan and India where Indian captain Bishan Bedi conceded the game due to the Indian teams’ unhappiness over what they considered to be unfair and biased umpiring in favour of Pakistan.

England captain Alec Stewart also chose to concede a game to Pakistan in 2001 after a premature pitch invasion was instigated by Pakistan fans. The pitch invasion took place when Pakistan were 4 runs from victory and badly injured a steward working at the ground. Stewart chose to concede the match to protect his players in case of another pitch invasion and ensure their safety.

Terminology – Other Things You May Read In Cricket Results

Some people are confused by the terminology that is used to describe how a team won a game, so I’ll try to explain some of that here!

Winning By ‘x’ Number of Runs  

Let’s say that you look at a scorecard from a cricket game, and it tells you that South Africa defeated New Zealand by 253 runs. What does this mean? Let’s break it down…

In a test match this would mean that after New Zealand were bowled out twice, the combined scores from both their innings was 253 runs short of South Africa’s combined total. In a 50 over game (or any limited overs game), this would simply mean that South Africa scored 253 more runs than New Zealand at the end of their 50 over allocation.

Winning by ‘x’ amount of runs also lets us know that the team who lost the game was batting last and was chasing the target set by the winning team!

Winning By ‘x’ Number of Wickets

Here’s another example of a game summary you may read: West Indies defeated Bangladesh by 6 wickets. This means that the West Indies team batted last and chased down the target that was set for them by Bangladesh, and they only lost 4 wickets in the process. They had 6 wickets remaining, therefore that is declared as the margin of victory!

If you see a cricket scorecard and it tells you that a team won by ‘x’ number of wickets, you will always be able to tell that the winning team batted last!

Winning By An Innings & ‘x’ Number of Runs

You may also see game summaries that say something like ‘Australia beat Pakistan by an innings and 25 runs’. You will only see this kind of result in games where teams have two batting innings per side, such as test matches. Winning by an innings and 25 runs would mean that Australia bowled Pakistan out twice and scored 25 more runs than them, whilst batting one innings less! Or, to put it another way – The combined totals from two innings for Pakistan was 25 runs less than the total of one innings for Australia. In this scenario, the team that loses the game will always have batted last! The most common ways the victories by an innings occur are as follows:

  • Team A bats first and puts a large score on the board before being bowled out, let’s say they score 500 runs. It is now Team B’s turn to bat, but they only score 200 before they are also bowled out. Team A now has a choice, with a lead of 300 runs they can either choose to bat again, or choose to make Team B bat again by ‘enforcing the follow on’. In 4 day cricket the follow on can only be enforced if the team who batted first has a first innings lead that is higher than 150. In 5 day cricket the first innings lead must be higher than 200. In order to achieve victory by an innings in this scenario, the follow on must be enforced and Team A must bowl Team B out before they score another 300 runs and equal Team A’s first innings score. As an example, if Team B scored 150 runs in their second innings then Team A would win by an innings and 150 runs.
  • Team A bats first and is bowled out for a relatively low score, let’s say they score 150 runs. Team B now has their turn to bat and in response they score 600 runs, which gives them a lead of 450 runs. Team B will achieve victory by an innings and ‘x’ amount of runs if they bowl out Team A in their second innings for less than 450. For example, if they bowled out Team A for 300, they would win by an innings and 150 runs. Team A would have scored 150 less runs in two innings than Team B did in one innings under this scenario.

What Does ‘No Result’ Mean?

In limited overs matches such as one-day games or T20’s, it is possible that games are ended with ‘no result’ being the official outcome of the match. Environmental factors such as rain will almost always be the cause of this.

No result will be declared when one or both teams are not able to bat the minimum number of overs in order for a game to be won or lost. The toss must also take place in order for no result to be declared. As I mentioned earlier, in 50 over matches, each side must bat a minimum of 20 overs in order for a winner to be declared. If either team bats less than 20 overs, then the match will be listed as no result. In 20 over cricket each side must bat for a minimum of 5 overs meaning that either team batting less than this will end in a no result.

Test matches or matches with two innings per side cannot end in a no result. If these matches are affected heavily by weather after the toss has taken placeand that prevents a result being achieved then the match is classed as a draw.

What Does ‘Match Abandoned’ Mean?

Matches are classed as abandoned when weather or other conditions stop the toss taking place, as well as stopping any deliveries from being bowled. If this happens then this game will not be included in the official statistical records of cricket. If the toss is able to take place, but conditions then stop any deliveries from being bowled, then this match will either be classed as a draw (In the case of test match and first class cricket) or a no result (in the case of limited overs cricket).

Conclusion

Hopefully this post has helped you get your head around some of the finer details when it comes to winning cricket matches! If you’ve stayed with me all the way to the end of this post, then chances are you may want to learn some more about the rules of cricket. Click here to see my other cricket rules posts!

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