What Is A Draw In Cricket? – A Simple Explanation

I know that when I try to explain cricket to people who’ve never really watched it, one of the things they struggle to understand is how a cricket match that lasts for 5 days can end in a draw! Most other sports like American football, basketball and tennis feature matches that will be finished in 3-4 hours, and these matches hardly ever end in a draw. This may make you wonder why cricket is so different!

In this post I’m going to tell you exactly what a draw is, when they happen, and which types of cricket matches they occur in. We’ll also cover some other things like the differences between a draw and a tie, which are actually two different things in the sport of cricket!

 So, what is a draw in cricket, and when do they occur?

A game of cricket is declared to be a draw when BOTH of the following things occur:

  1. The team batting in the 4th innings of a match fails to score the number of runs required to win or tie the match
  2. The team bowling in the 4th innings of a match fails to bowl the batting side out

If the game ends due to time restrictions before the 4th innings of the match is reached, this shall also be recorded as a draw.

It’s important to note that the scores of both teams do not have to be level in order for a draw to occur. In fact, the runs scored by both teams are not really factored in at all.

Another important thing to remember is that draws can only occur in ‘first class’ cricket matches. A first class cricket match is a game that is between 3-5 days long, has 11 players per team and allows each team to have two batting innings. Test matches between the international teams are all counted as first class matches, as are the games played in the domestic competitions of each major cricketing nation, such as the county championship in England, the Sheffield Shield in Australia, and the Ranji trophy in India.

Draws cannot occur in the shorter formats of the game like 50 over cricket and 20 over cricket. I’ll explain what it is that replaces the draw for these matches later in the post!

The concept of a draw in cricket is much easier to explain if we look through a few examples, so let’s go through some now!

Examples of Draws in Cricket

Firstly, imagine that England & Australia are playing a test match. England bat first and score 400, and then the Aussies respond and score 350. England’s 2nd innings allows them to score 300, giving them a lead in the game of 350 runs. With Australia batting last, they now need to score 351 runs to win the game, with 350 runs being good enough for a tie. If the match reaches the end of the allotted 5 days and England have not bowled Australia out, and Australia have not scored the 350 to tie or the 351 to win, the game will be declared a draw.

Now for a second example! Let’s say India are playing South Africa in a test match and India manage to score 500 in their first innings. South Africa begin their reply, and they are 100-2 when it starts to rain on the morning of day 3 of the test. The rain continues for the next 3 days, meaning that the players never get another chance to take the field. This match would be classed as a draw because only 1 of the 4 innings in the game was concluded. For a test match to end in a win for one team or a tie, all 4 innings of the game must be finished. If this fails to happen for any reason, the match should be recorded as a draw.

My third example focuses on a match that includes one team being asked to ‘follow on’. If you’re not sure what the follow on is, then perhaps you should click here to read my post about it! In this example, New Zealand are playing the West Indies. New Zealand bat first and score 600 runs. The West Indies are then bowled out for 350, and the New Zealand captain asks them to follow on. This means the West Indies need to bat again, which they do, and they manage to score 400 in their second innings. New Zealand now need to score a quick 150 to tie, or 151 to win in their final innings of the game. The West Indies manage to take a few early wickets, and New Zealand stop playing as aggressively as they are fearful of being bowled out and losing the game. As a result, at the end of play on day 5 New Zealand are 65-4. They haven’t scored enough runs to win or tie, and the West Indies haven’t taken enough wickets to bowl them out. Therefore, this game is recorded as a draw.

What is the Difference Between a Draw and a Tie in Cricket?

As we’ve already discussed, a draw is declared in cricket when the team batting last fails to score enough runs to win the game, while the bowling side fails to bowl them out.

The difference between a draw and a game that is declared a tie, is that when a game is tied the team batting last will have equalled the other team’s total number of runs in the game. Once the score has been equalled/tied, the bowling side will take the final wicket to end the game. To sum this up in a different way, the scores over two innings for each team were level, and with the team batting last needing just one run to win the game, they were bowled out.

As always, this is easier to explain with a quick example…

Firstly, let’s say England are playing Australia in a test match and Australia bat first, scoring 200 runs. England bat next and score 250 runs. In Australia’s second innings, they score 300. The total number of runs scored by Australia in the game to this point has been 500 across both innings. England scored 250 in their first innings, so when they begin their run chase in the final innings of the game, they will need 251 runs to beat Australia’s total score of 500 and win the match. Now imagine England are 250-9. The scores from both teams across both innings are tied at this point. England have scored 250+250 which equals 500, and Australia scored 200+300 which equals 500. If Australia take England’s final wicket when the scores are tied, the match is recorded as a tie.

Tied matches are incredibly rare in cricket. In fact, there have been over 2,000 international test matches played since they began in 1877, and only two tests have ever ended in a tie. The first of these occurred in 1960 between West Indies and Australia, and the second occurred in 1986 between Australia and India. If you’d like to read some more details about these games, click here!

Can One Day Cricket Matches End in Draws?

As I mentioned earlier, only first class cricket matches can end in draws. The shorter formats of the game which take place in one day such as 50 over cricket and 20 over cricket have a different set of rules. Here I’ll take you through the main ways these games can end…

A Win/Loss

When looking at these games there are several results that can occur, and the most obvious of is a win. To win a limited overs match, either the team batting second will chase down the score that has been set for them by the team that batted first, or the team batting first will defend their score and stop the opposing team reaching it. This is pretty simple!

A Tie

The next possible result is a tie. This is very similar to the tie result we spoke about earlier in first class cricket. If a team scores 300 in a one day match, and the team batting second also scores 300 and has their innings ended due to getting bowled out or running out of overs, the match will be recorded as a tie.

No Result

Next we have games that are recorded as ‘no result’. This type of match result is usually caused by rain or extremely bad weather stopping one or both teams from batting the minimum number of overs required for a game to be won or lost. In 50 over cricket, both teams must bat for a minimum of 20 overs in order for a winner to be declared, and in 20 over cricket each team must bat a minimum of 5 overs. If for any reason this doesn’t happen, the match will be recorded as no result. Another important thing to note is that the toss MUST take place in order for a game to be classed as no result.

Match Abandoned

One more possible outcome is ‘match abandoned’. A match will be abandoned when something like the weather stops the toss taking place, and stops a single ball from being bowled.

Won via the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern (DLS) Method

One day games can also be settled by using the DLS method, and this is another way that draws are avoided. The DLS method is a mathematical formula that is used when things like bad weather affect a game of cricket, and it allows the winning score for the team batting last to be adjusted to account for any time lost in the game. In order for the DLS method to be applied, both teams must bat a minimum of 20 overs in 50 over cricket, and a minimum of 5 overs in T20 matches. If this does not happen, the match will be ended with no result as I explained above.

To explain how the DLS system works, imagine a team batting first and scoring 300 runs from 50 overs. Then the other team begins the run chase, but their innings is disrupted by bad weather only allowing 30 overs to be bowled. In this case the target score of 301 will be adjusted using the mathematical formula in order to create a smaller target, making it fair for the team batting last.

The DLS method allows winners and losers to be determined even when the match cannot be fully completed, which minimises the amount of ‘no results’ that occur.


If you’re a newcomer to the sport of cricket then I hope this post has made this aspect of the game a little easier to understand for you. If you’re interested in playing cricket, then there are tons of helpful posts on the site that should help you with your technique and your broader approach to the game. Feel free to have a browse and see if you can find something that will help you out!

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